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Calf and disease factors affecting growth in female Holstein calves in Florida, USA.

  • Donovan, G A1
  • Dohoo, I R
  • Montgomery, D M
  • Bennett, F L
  • 1 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610-0136, USA. [email protected]
Published Article
Preventive veterinary medicine
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1998
PMID: 9500160


A prospective cohort study was undertaken to determine calf-level factors that affect performance (growth) between birth and 14 months of age in a convenience sample of approximately 3300 female Holstein calves born in 1991 on two large Florida dairy farms. Data collected on each calf at birth included farm of origin, birth date, weight, height at the pelvis, and serum total protein (a measure of colostral immunoglobulin absorption). Birth season was dichotomized into summer and winter using meteorological data collected by University of Florida Agricultural Research Stations. Data collected at approximately 6 and 14 months of age included age, weight, height at the pelvis, and height at the withers. Growth in weight and stature (height) was calculated for each growth period; growth period 1 (GP1) = birth to 6 months, and growth period 2 (GP2) = 6 to 14 months. Health data collected included data of initial treatment and number of treatments for the diseases diarrhea, omphalitis, septicemia, pneumonia and keratoconjunctivitis. After adjusting for disease occurrence, passive transfer of colostral immunoglobulins had no significant effect on body weight gain or pelvic height growth. Season of birth and occurrence of diarrhea, septicemia and respiratory disease were significant variables decreasing heifer growth (height and weight) in GP1. These variables plus farm, birth weight and exact age when '6 month' data were collected explained 20% and 31% of the variation in body weight gain and pelvic height growth, respectively, in GP1. The number of days treated for pneumonia before 6 months of age significantly decreased average daily weight gain in GP2 (P < 0.025), but did not affect stature growth. Treatment for pneumonia after 6 months of age did not significantly affect weight or height gain after age 6 months. Neither omphalitis nor keratoconjunctivitis explained variability in growth in either of the growth periods.

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