BW of replacement heifers is rarely measured on commercial farms, making it difficult to evaluate the success of management practices related to calf growth. Our aims were to describe variability among commercial farms in Holstein heifer BW, determine how BW differences varied with management and propose a method of estimating calf growth based upon single measurement. Heart girth circumference was used to estimate BW of 576 heifers 48 to 70 weeks of age on 33 different farms (on average 11±6 heifers/farm) in British Columbia, Canada. Regression analysis showed a linear relationship of BW with age (BW (kg)=116+5×age (weeks)). Residuals from this regression were averaged across heifers within each farm to identify farms where heifers were heavier or lighter than would be predicted on the basis of their age; farm average residuals ranged from −54 to 72 kg. Farms with heifers showing the highest residual BW also had the highest rates of gain for pre-weaned calves. These results indicate that farms able to rear faster growing calves before weaning were also rearing faster growing heifers at breeding, and suggest that management of milk-fed calves is a particularly important component of replacement heifer management.
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