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dc.contributor.authorMcCarthy, M-C.
dc.contributor.authorMcAloon, C.G.
dc.contributor.authorO'Grady, L.
dc.contributor.authorMee, J.F.
dc.identifier.citationM-C. McCarthy, C.G. McAloon, L. O'Grady, J.F. Mee, Growth rates of contract-reared versus home-reared replacement dairy heifers, animal, Volume 16, Issue 7, 2022, 100570, ISSN 1751-7311,
dc.description.abstractSuccessful heifer rearing is dependent on achieving optimal average daily gain (ADG) targets to calve for the first time at 24 months. Whilst dairy farmers internationally have traditionally managed their heifers on-farm to achieve these targets, recent dairy herd expansion within Europe has resulted in increased demand for labour-saving heifer-rearing strategies, such as off-farm contractrearing. However, loss of direct influence on the day-to-day management decisions affecting the ability of heifers to grow adequately to achieve this age of first calving may represent a potential barrier to uptake. Hence, the aim of this longitudinal observational study was to compare the growth rates of contract- vs home-reared heifers. Approximately 6 500 heifers from 120 commercial Irish dairy farms were enrolled in a 3-year study. For 65 of these farms, heifers were reared at a contract-rearing facility. For the remaining 55 farms, heifers were reared on their home farm. Over the course of 20 months from birth until precalving, heifers were examined and weighed at four farm visits. The relationship between several independent variables (farm type, herd size, heifer breed, economic breeding index (EBI) and health events) and ADG at different time points was investigated and analysed utilising linear mixed models. Overall ADG for heifers throughout the rearing period was 0.71 kg/day. There was a significant association between farm type and ADG for all five linear ADG models; home-reared heifers grew, on average, 0.025, 0.039, 0.11 and 0.059 kg/day more than contract-reared heifers between visit 1 and visit 4 (overall ADG), visit 1 and visit 2, visit 2 and visit 3 and visit 1 and visit 3, respectively. The occurrence of diarrhoea during farm visit 2 (median age 8.5 months) was associated with a significant reduction in ADG between visit 3 and visit 4. Calf-hood disease (diarrhoea, respiratory disease or navel ill) was not associated with the growth rate during any of the subsequent visit periods. While home-reared heifers had greater ADG during four of the five periods studied, median heifer ADG in both cohorts exceeded the minimum published target weight gains at each developmental stage required for heifers to reach puberty, conceive at 15 months and calve for the first time at 24 months. Importantly, there was wide variation both within enterprises and between farms. It was concluded that while the absolute difference in daily growth rates of home- and contract-reared heifers was minimal, when considered in the context of the entire heifer-rearing period, these growth rate differences have the potential to impact the future reproductive and milk production performance of heifers.en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseriesAnimal;Vol 16
dc.rights© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium.
dc.rightsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International*
dc.subjectAverage daily gainen_US
dc.subjectCalf-hood diseaseen_US
dc.subjectHeifer rearingen_US
dc.subjectRearing strategiesen_US
dc.subjectWeight targetsen_US
dc.titleGrowth rates of contract-reared versus home-reared replacement dairy heifersen_US
dc.contributor.sponsorTeagasc Walsh Scholarship Programmeen_US

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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium.