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A comparison of Simmental × Holstein-Friesian and Piemontese × Holstein-Friesian cows in a hill suckler herd: 1. Reproduction and calf performance to weaning

Keatinge, R., Chapple, D.G., Hardy, R., Wilson, D.W.
Irish journal of agricultural and food research 2003 v.42 no.1 pp. 71-77
Holstein, Simmental, calves, calving, calving interval, cows, finishing, food research, gestation period, heifers, herds, highlands, hills, liveweight gain, meat quality, milking, prices, rearing, reproductive performance, sires, weaning
Simmental × Holstein-Friesian (S) and Piemontese × Holstein-Friesian (P) suckler cows representing, respectively, a large cow type with good milking ability and a medium-sized cow type with a reputation for good meat quality, were compared in an autumn-calving production system. Reproductive performance and calf rearing ability were assessed over four successive seasons from breeding as heifers to fourth parity. During that period they were mated to a range of late maturing terminal sires. From a total of 130 and 132 matings, the calving percentages were 91 and 86 for S and P, respectively. From 69 and 74 heifer matings, the corresponding percentages were 90 and 88, respectively. Overall gestation length (291 days) and calving interval (367 days) were similar for the two dam types. Piemontese cross cows produced consistently lighter weaned calves at approximately 8 months of age. Over the 4-year period, mean bull calf growth rates to weaning were 1.28 and 1.17 (s.e.d. 0.022, P < 0.001) kg/day for S and P, respectively. The corresponding values for heifer calves were 1.12 and 1.04 kg/day (s.e.d. 0.022, P < 0.001). These results demonstrate that high performance can be obtained on suckled calves under favourable hill and upland conditions. However, to offset the lower calf growth rate and poorer reproductive performance of the P dams a price premium per kg of weaned calf is required. Such a premium could only be justified on the basis of improved finishing performance and/or greater unit carcass value.