Calves conceived in winter perform better

June 22, 2017 by Brad Buck, University of Florida
Calves conceived in winter perform better
Researchers, including UF/IFAS animal sciences associate professor Albert De Vries, seen here, found that calves conceived in the cool season fared better from day 1 of their pregnancies. Now researchers want to know whether the biological mechanism that causes that effect on day 1 or later. Credit: UF/IFAS

Cows and humans have something in common: If you take better care of the mother during pregnancy, her children are likely to be healthier – and this impact should last a lifetime, a University of Florida scientist says.

In the case of cows, cool conditions are key. A new UF/IFAS study shows calves conceived during winter went on to produce more calves and milk.

That's a critical finding for and for people looking for a nutritious glass of milk because each Florida cow produces an average of 2,408 gallons of milk per year.

"This is important to figure out because maybe we can improve the conditions from conception on in order to get an animal to do as well as possible throughout its existence," said Albert De Vries, a UF/IFAS associate professor of animal sciences. "The current thinking is that the environment plays an important role from at least conception on."

Florida has about 124,000 , the study said.

For the study, researchers examined 667,000 cow lactation records for the years 2000 through 2012 from the Dairy Herd Information Association database. They obtained weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists considered a heat and humidity index higher than 68 to cause heat stress in the cows.

Through these records, De Vries and lead author Pablo Pinedo of Colorado State University documented effects of stress during conception on the calf's performance when it becomes a cow. A calf grows into a cow about two years after birth.

They found that calves conceived in the cool season fared better from day 1 of their pregnancies. Now researchers want to know whether the biological mechanism that causes that effect on day 1 or later.

"Perhaps we can do something during early gestation, even if the mom is still under ," De Vries said.

The study is published in the Journal of Dairy Science.

Explore further: Happy cows make more nutritious milk

Related Stories

Happy cows make more nutritious milk

July 15, 2016

Daily infusions with a chemical commonly associated with feelings of happiness were shown to increase calcium levels in the blood of Holstein cows and the milk of Jersey cows that had just given birth. The results, published ...

Texas blizzard kills 15,000 cows

January 4, 2016

A freak blizzard killed at least 15,000 dairy cows in the US state of Texas and for almost two days kept farmers from milking some of those that survived, officials said Monday.

Dairy study in top agriculture journal

May 30, 2013

Massey University researcher Dr Jean Margerison has had a research article accepted for publication in the prestigious Journal of Dairy Science.

Recommended for you

Humans account for little next to plants, worms, bugs

May 21, 2018

When you weigh all life on Earth, billions of humans don't amount to much compared to trees, earthworms or even viruses. But we really know how to throw what little weight we have around, according to a first-of-its-kind ...

How animals holler

May 21, 2018

While humans can only broadcast about one percent of their vocal power through their speech, some animals and mammals are able to broadcast 100 percent. The secret to their long-range howls? A combination of high pitch, a ...

Profiling the genome hundreds of variations at a time

May 21, 2018

Geneticists have been using model organisms ranging from the house mouse to the single-cell bakers' yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to study basic biological processes that regulate human development and physiology, and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.