Metabolic traits affecting growth rates of pre-pubertal calves and their relationship with subsequent survival

Swali, A and Cheng, Z R and Bourne, N and Wathes, D C (2008) Metabolic traits affecting growth rates of pre-pubertal calves and their relationship with subsequent survival. DOMESTIC ANIMAL ENDOCRINOLOGY, 35 (3). pp. 300-313.

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Abstract

This study related growth and metabolic traits in Holstein-Friesian calves (<i>n</i>=45) to subsequent performance and longevity. Animals were measured at birth, 3, 6 and 9 months (weight, crown rump length (CRL), heart girth and height). Endocrine and metabolic traits were assessed at 6 months of age. These traits were not influenced by sire (<i>n</i>=5). Milk production and mortality records were obtained through 3 lactations. Seven heifers failed to achieve a lactation, 6 were culled after one, 17 after two and 15 (33%) survived more than or equal to 3 lactations. Birth weight and girth but not skeletal measures were highly positively correlated with the repeated size measurements at 3-9 months. Calves with higher cortisol at 6 months were smaller in weight and girth at 3 months, with reduced 3-6 months skeletal growth. GH secretion was related to height, weight and growth, whereas urea was most strongly related to CRL. Calves not achieving a single lactation had lower IGF-I. Calves with higher glucose or BHB were more likely to be culled after 2 lactations, an effect which was independent of yield. Size and metabolic measurements of growing calves may therefore prove useful in predicting longevity.