Weaning Holstein Calves at 17 Weeks of Age Enables Smooth Transition from Liquid to Solid Feed
Development of calves depends on prenatal and postnatal conditions. Primiparous cows were still maturing during pregnancy, which can lead to negative intrauterine conditions and affect the calf’s metabolism. It is hypothesized that weaning calves at higher maturity has positive effects due to reduced metabolic stress. We aimed to evaluate effects of mothers’ parity and calves’ weaning age on growth performance and blood metabolites. Fifty-nine female Holstein calves (38.8 ± 5.3 kg birth weight, about 8 days old) were used in a 2 × 2 factorial experiment with factors weaning age (7 vs. 17 weeks) and parity of mother (primiparous vs. multiparous cows). Calves were randomly assigned one of these four groups. Live weight, live weight gain and morphometry increased over time and were greater in calves weaned later. Metabolic indicators except total protein were interactively affected by time and weaning age. Leptin remained low in early-weaned calves born to primiparous cows, while it increased in the other groups. The results suggest that weaning more mature calves has a positive effect on body growth, and calves born to primiparous cows particularly benefit from this weaning regimen. It also enables a smooth transition from liquid to solid feed, which might reduce the associated stress of weaning.