Occurrence of preterm calving in Great Britain and associations with milk production and reproductive performance in dairy cattle

Damaso, A F and Velasova, M and Van Winden, S C L and Chang, Y M and Guitian, J (2018) Occurrence of preterm calving in Great Britain and associations with milk production and reproductive performance in dairy cattle. Veterinary Record Open, 5. e000221.

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Abstract

This study describes the occurrence of preterm calving in Great Britain and evaluates its associations with subsequent milk production and reproductive performances and survival on farm of dairy cows. A total of 53 British dairy farms and 5759 animals with detailed breeding and milk recording data available were used to form two study groups: preterm calving (calving occurring between days 266 and 277 of gestation) and full-term calving (calving occurring at 278 days of gestation and over). Mixed effects models were implemented to compare milk production, clinical cases of mastitis and number of services per conception between groups. Kaplan-Meier curves and Cox regression analyses compared time from calving to conception, calving interval and survival on farm between groups. Preterm calving cows showed significantly lower milk yield (P<0.01) and butter fat per cent (P=0.02), increased milk protein per cent (P=0.01), longer survival on farm (P<0.01), and a tendency for shorter calving to conception intervals and fewer services per conception, although other factors were involved in the reproduction outcomes. Experiencing a preterm calving is associated with lower milk production and longer survival times on farm. Potential risk factors for preterm calving, such as infectious diseases, diet and husbandry practices, should be further investigated.