Effect of prepubertal and postpubertal growth and age at first calving on production and reproduction traits during the first 3 lactations in Holstein dairy cattle
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The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of body condition score (BCS), body weight (BW), average daily weight gain (ADG), and age at first calving (AFC) of Holstein heifers on production and reproduction parameters in the 3 subsequent lactations. The data set consisted of 780 Holstein heifers calved at 2 dairy farms in the Czech Republic from 2007 to 2011. Their BW and BCS were measured at monthly intervals during the rearing period (5 to 18 mo of age), and the milk production and reproduction data of the first 3 lactations were collected over an 8-yr period (2005 to 2012). The highest milk yield in the first lactation was found in the group with medium ADG (5 to 14 mo of age; 0.949 to 0.850 kg of ADG). The highest average milk yield over lifetime performance was detected in heifers with the highest total ADG (≥0.950 kg/d). The difference in milk yield between the evaluated groups of highest ADG (in total and postpubertal growth ≥0.950 kg/d and in prepubertal growth ≥0.970 kg/d) and the lowest ADG (≤0.849 kg/d) was approximately 1,000 kg/305 d per cow. The highest milk yield in the first lactation was found in the group with the highest AFC ≥751 d, for which fat and protein content in the milk was not reduced. Postpubertal growth (11 to 14 mo of age) had the greatest effect on AFC. The group with lowest AFC ≤699 d showed a negative effect on milk yield but only in the first 100 d of the first parity. The highest ADG was detrimental to reproduction parameters in the first lactation. The highest BW at 14 mo (≥420 kg) led to lower AFC. Groups according to BCS at 14 mo showed no differences in AFC or milk yield in the first lactation or lifetime average production per lactation. We concluded that low AFC ≤699 d did not show a negative effect on subsequent production and reproduction parameters. Therefore, a shorter rearing period is recommended for dairy herds with suitable management.
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