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Title: Analysis of body measurements of newborn purebred Belgian Blue calves
Authors: Kolkman, Iris ×
Opsomer, Geert
Aerts, Stef
Hoflack, Geert
Laevens, Hans
Lips, Dirk #
Issue Date: 2010
Series Title: Animal vol:4 pages:661-671
Abstract: At calving, purebred animals of the Belgian Blue (BB) breed are compromised by the incompatibility in size and shape of the dam and her calf, resulting in a very high incidence of dystocia problems. To clarify which body parts of the calf are of decisive importance to allow natural delivery and to investigate both the mean value as well as the variation among these body sizes within this breed (variation being an important condition for selection), measurements of nine body parts (body weight at birth (BW), body length (BL), length of the head (LH), shoulder width (SW), hip width (HW), heart girth (HG), withers height (WH) and the circumference of the fetlock of both the front (CFF) and the hind leg (CFH)) were assessed in 147 newborn purebred BB calves on 17 farms. Simple and partial correlations were assessed and we examined whether environmental factors (gender of the calf, parity of the cow, type of calving, season of birth and time of measurement after birth) were significantly associated with these specific calf measurements. The mean BW was 49.2 ± 7.1 kg. The average BL was 56.4 ± 4.5 cm and the mean LH was 24.4 ± 2.3 cm. Measurements obtained for SW and HW were 22.4 ± 2.2 and 22.9 ± 2.1 cm, respectively, whereas the mean WH was 71.1 ± 4.7 cm. Measurements of circumferences revealed a CFF of 17.9 ± 1.1 cm, a CFH of 18.0 ± 1.0 cm and a mean HG of 78.0 ± 5.4 cm. Partial correlations of the BW with eight body measurements were significant (P < 0.01) and ranged between 0.17 and 0.85; 0.42 and 0.88; and 0.24 and 0.88 when corrected for gender, parity and type of calving, respectively. BL (P < 0.01) and the CFF and CFH (P < 0.001) are larger in bull calves than in heifer calves. Calves born through caesarean section had broader SW (P < 0.01) and HW (P < 0.01) when compared with calves born after natural calving (defined as born per vaginam without assistance or with slight traction). Sizes of calves born out of multiparous cows were generally larger than of calves born out of heifers (SW: P < 0.001; HW: P < 0.05). As SW and HW are the broadest points of a BB calf, they are both candidates for being the limiting measures for calving ease, but the difference between HW and SW for the total data set was not different from zero (P > 0.05). In contrast to male calves in which no significant difference (between HW and SW) could be found, female calves show the difference between HW and SW that was significantly different from zero (P < 0.001); thus, in female calves, the HW is the most limiting factor of the calf's body. The significant variation in some body measures between the calves and the strong correlation within these sizes raises the possibility of selection towards smaller calves aiming to limit the dystocia problem in the BB breed. Furthermore, on the basis of our results, we were able to build equations for the farmer to use at the moment of calving containing the LH, the CF and the calf's gender to estimate SW and HW, the limiting body parts of the calf to be born naturally. Together with the knowledge of the pelvic size of the dam, this information gives the obstetrician or the farmer a more accurate prediction of the probability of natural calving at parturition.
ISSN: 1751-7311
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Studiegebied Biotechniek Odisee
Ethics @ Arenberg
Division of Livestock-Nutrition-Quality (-)
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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