Production Pointers: Genetics/replacements


Sept. 28, 2009

‘Healthy Heifer’ program launched

Novartis Animal Health announces the introduction of Healthy Heifer™, a new heifer management program designed specifically to maximize the long-term value of dairy replacement heifers through established health and management protocols. The veterinarian-verified management program  – which emphasizes prevention, rather than treatment – works to ensure heifers are well-prepared for a highly productive and profitable role on the dairy. To learn more, visit or

Gold Standards: DCHA offers tips

The Dairy Calf & Heifer Association (DCHA) created ‘Gold Standards’ to outline production and performance expectations in six categories for Holstein calves from birth to six months of age. The standards were developed by a team of producers, contract growers, consultants and industry representatives who surveyed producers, DCHA members and university specialists across the United States.

Gold Standard V: Mortality & Morbidity


The Gold Standards state that it is understood that some calves are born with a heartbeat and breathing, yet die not long after birth; therefore the age of 24 hours shall be used to distinguish between “dead-on-arrival” (stillbirth) and “calf mortality.”

All newborn calves should be placed in an environment that will be safe from adult animals and adult animal diseases. Every newborn calf should receive care to its navel to control infection.

In order to meet the Gold Standards established by DCHA, target mortality rates are:

1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 5%

2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 2%

3. 121-180 days of age: < 1%


Defining scours as a case of diarrhea, which requires any intervention for more than 24 hours, the Gold Standards target morbidity rates for scours are:

1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 25%

2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 2%

3. 121 to 180 days of age: < 1%

For Holstein calves, from birth to 6 months of age, pneumonia is defined as a case of respiratory disease, which requires individual animal treatment with an antibiotic (does not include use of feed-grade medication fed with regular ration).

The Gold Standards target morbidity rates for pneumonia are:

1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 10%

2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 15%

3. 121 to 180 days of age: < 2%

For more information on the DCHA Gold Standards, visit

ISU researchers: embryonic test for bovine genetics

Looking at the genetic makeup of cattle to determine their value is nothing new.An examination of a small sample of hair or blood can reveal if a calf has any genetic diseases that will lower the market price. Now, a team of clinicians and diagnosticians and genetic researchers at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are looking to test those calves earlier before they are born

Dr. Jim West and Dr. Paul Plummer are researching a method to determine if a bovine is genetically sound when it is still an embryo prior to being implanted in its mother. This process, if successful, would allow producers to select which embryos are valuable before spending the time, effort and expense of producing a calf only to find out that it has genetic defects that render it of little value.

Until now, the problem has been biopsy samples of embryos are so small — only a few cells – that it was impossible to accurately read the genetic information.New technology may allow West and Plummer to get accurate genetic information from samples as small as two to three cells and still keep the embryo viable, even if it is frozen for long-term storage. The study is being funded by a Grow Iowa Values Fund Grant. The goal of the grant program is to support development of technologies with commercial potential and to support the growth of companies using those technologies. The researchers are working with Ames Center for Genetic Technologies, Inc. as their corporate partner.

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Heifer performance, economic results seen in repro research

Milk yield and reproductive performance of first lactation Holstein cows is closely related to age at first calving and weight after calving.

According to records processed at DHI Provo, the average age at first calving is greater than 25 months for Holstein herds in the western United States. In fact, less than 3% of U.S. dairy producers achieve the recommended target of ≤ 24 months of age at first calving and ≥ 1,230 lb (live weight) after calving. Increased age at first calving results in increased costs due to additional rearing expense, and lost income opportunity from not having milk in the tank earlier in the animal’s life. For more information, visit