Original Article

Maternal and environmental factors associated with the birth weight of Holstein calves

  • E. Depreester
  • M. M. Kamal
  • M. Van Eetvelde
  • M. Hostens
  • G. Opsomer


The objective of the present study was to determine factors that are associated with the birth size of Holstein calves. A retrospective cross-sectional study was set up, and data of 1594 calf births from four dairy herds in Belgium and one in Germany were analyzed. Of the variables offered to the offspring birth weight (BW) model in heifers, calf gender, gestation length, season of calving, age at calving and heart girth, wither height and diagonal length of the dam were retained as significant. The BW was significantly lower in heifers that calved at a very old age (25.5 to 37.3 months) (P < 0.001). Calves born out of young (20.3 to < 22 months) and old (23.3 to 25.5 months) heifers were lighter than calves born out of intermediately aged (22 to < 23.5 months) heifers. Of the variables offered to the offspring BW model in cows, calf gender, season of calving, gestation length, parity, length of the dry period and the milk production during gestation (MGEST) were significant. For cows having the same heart girth, the BW of the calves was 0.97 and 1.11 kg higher in cows with low (1,400 to < 5,400 kg) and high (6,500 to < 7,200) MGEST, respectively, than in cows with very high MGEST (7,200 to 11,600 kg) (P < 0.05). The negative effects of young and older age at calving in heifers and of very high milk production levels during gestation in cows on the BW of their calves, provide a basis for further research in nutritional and managerial interventions to improve the long-term health and productivity of the offspring.

How to Cite:

Depreester, E. & Kamal, M. & Van Eetvelde, M. & Hostens, M. & Opsomer, G., (2014) “Maternal and environmental factors associated with the birth weight of Holstein calves”, Vlaams Diergeneeskundig Tijdschrift 83(1), 3-13. doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/vdt.v83i1.16670

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Published on
26 Feb 2014
Peer Reviewed