A meta-analysis of the effects of preweaned calf nutrition and growth on first-lactation performance 1

S. L. Gelsinger, A. J. Heinrichs, C. M. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Several studies and a 2013 meta-analysis have proposed that increased feeding of milk or milk replacer to neonatal calves may improve subsequent milk production. However, data from individual studies are conflicting, and the meta-analysis was unable to assess the influence of calf starter intake. The objective of the current meta-analysis was to review newly published data and evaluate the effects of preweaning diet (including calf starter intake) and growth rate on first-lactation milk, fat, and protein yield. Data from 9 studies representing 21 treatment groups were included in the analysis. We created separate models for each outcome variable using regression methods in SAS (version 9.4, SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC) to determine the effects of intake and growth rate. We then selected the best-fitting models using Akaike's information criterion. The effect of study explained 98, 85, and 96% of the variance in 305-d milk, fat, and protein yield in first lactation, respectively, indicating that other aspects of management are more important for determining first-lactation production than preweaning intake and growth rate. However, we found a synergistic relationship between preweaning liquid and starter dry matter intake for improving milk, fat, and protein production, and a positive relationship between first-lactation performance and preweaning average daily gain. These data indicate that provision of adequate nutrients from liquid and solid feeds and maintaining average daily gain above 0.5 kg/d can enhance the first-lactation performance of heifers when combined with proper postweaning practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6206-6214
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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