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Performance and financial consequences of stillbirth in Holstein dairy cattle

  • A. Mahnani (a1), A. Sadeghi-Sefidmazgi (a1) and H. Keshavarzi (a1)


Stillbirth is an economically important trait on dairy farms. Knowledge of the consequences of, and the economic losses associated with stillbirth can help the producer when making management decisions. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of stillbirth on productive and reproductive performance as well as financial losses due to stillbirth incidence in Iranian Holstein dairy farms. Economic and performance data were collected from nine Holstein dairy farms in Isfahan and Khorasan provinces of Iran from March 2008 to December 2013. The final data set included 160 410 calving records from 53 265 cows. A linear mixed model was developed to evaluate the effects of stillbirth on performance of primiparous and multiparous cows separately and overall. An economic model was used to estimate the economic losses due to stillbirth. The incidence of stillbirth cases per cow per year was 4.2% on average (3.4% to 6.8% at herd level). The least square means results showed that a case of stillbirth significantly (P<0.05) reduced 305-day milk production in multiparous cows and overall, but had no significant effects on primiparous cows production performance (P>0.05). Overall, a case of stillbirth reduced 305-day milk yield by 544.0±76.5 kg/cow per lactation. Stillbirth had no significant effects on 305-day fat and protein percentages in either primiparous or multiparous cows. Overall, cows that gave birth to stillborn calves had significantly increased days open by 14.6±2.6 days and the number of inseminations per conception by 0.2 compared with cows that gave birth to live calves (P<0.01). In general, the negative productive and reproductive effects associated with stillbirth were smaller and non-significant for primiparous cows compared with multiparous cows. The financial losses associated with stillbirth incidence averaged US$ 938 per case (range from $US 767 to $US 1189 in the nine investigated farms). The loss of a calf was not the only cost associated with stillbirth, as it accounted for 71.0% of the total cost. The costs of dystocia (7.6%) and culling and replacement expenses (6.3%) were the next most important costs associated with stillbirth. These results can be used to assess the potential return from management strategies to reduce the occurrence of stillbirths.


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