Productivity of crossbred dairy cows suckling their calves for 12 or 24 weeks post calving
Msanga, Y. N. and Bryant, M. J. (2004) Productivity of crossbred dairy cows suckling their calves for 12 or 24 weeks post calving. Tropical Animal Health and Production, 36 (8). pp. 763-773. ISSN 0049-4747
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1023/B:TROP.0000045961.40291.84
An experiment on restricted suckling of crossbred dairy cows was conducted at the Livestock Research Centre, Tanga in northeast Tanzania. Thirty-six Bos taurus (Holstein Friesian and Jersey) x Bos indicus (East African Zebu) cows were allocated alternately as they calved to suckling their calves for either 12 or 24 weeks after calving. Cows grazed improved pastures and were offered 4 kg concentrate daily. Milking occurred twice daily by hand; calves were allowed to suck residual milk for 30 min following each milking. Calves were also allowed access to grazing and were offered a maximum of I kg concentrate daily to 24 weeks of age. Weaning age had no significant effect on lactation milk yield for human consumption, the mean (SE) yield being 1806 (102.0) L and 1705 (129. 1) L for 12- and 24-week weaning, respectively. Cows from the two treatments suffered similar losses of live weight and body condition score during lactation and neither group had returned to the original body condition score 40 weeks following calving. Post-partum anoestrous intervals were prolonged. Although not significant, cows suckling calves to 24 weeks had a mean interval to first oestrus extended by 38 days compared with cows suckling calves to 12 weeks. The mean (SE) daily live weight gains of the calves to 52 weeks were 263 (14.1) g/day and 230 (18.1) g/day for calves weaned at 12 and 24 weeks, respectively, such that 12-month weights were 119 (5.6) kg and 110 (7.3) kg, respectively. Twelve-week-weaned calves consumed more concentrate (p < 0.05) from 13 to 24 weeks than did 24-week weaned calves. Calculation of residual milk consumption removed by calves from birth to 12 weeks indicated that it accounted for 28% of total yield. No benefits in cow and calf performance and welfare were found to justify prolonging the suckling period to 24 weeks.