Increased weight gain and effects on production parameters of Holstein heifer calves that were allowed to suckle from birth to six weeks of age

J Dairy Sci. 1997 Oct;80(10):2523-8. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(97)76205-2.

Abstract

Forty Holstein heifer calves were assigned to two treatments. Control calves (n = 20) were fed milk replacer in open buckets, and calves that were allowed to suckle (n = 20) were paired and suckled the same dam three times daily. Treatments were conducted during the first 6 wk following birth; thereafter, all calves received the same management, and weaning was at 60 d of age. During treatment, calves that were allowed to suckle had significantly higher average daily gains than did control calves. However, at 12 wk of age, calves that were allowed to suckle had significantly lower body weights (BW) than did control calves. Age at conception was significantly lower, and BW at conception and conception rate tended to be higher, for calves that were allowed to suckle. Calving age was significantly earlier for heifers that had been allowed to suckle as calves, and BW at calving also tended to be higher. Height at the withers after calving was also significantly higher for those heifers. Milk production during first lactation tended to be higher for the heifers that had been allowed to suckle as calves. Our results indicated that heifer calves that suckled milk during the first 42 d of age had higher average daily gains, higher height at the withers, an earlier age at calving, and a tendency for greater milk production than did calves fed milk replacer.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Animals, Suckling / growth & development
  • Animals, Suckling / physiology*
  • Cattle / growth & development
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Weaning
  • Weight Gain*