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Effect of body covers on the liveweight gain of heifer replacement calves and yearlings, and the liveweight gain and milksolids production of dairy cows



Effect of body covers on the liveweight gain of heifer replacement calves and yearlings, and the liveweight gain and milksolids production of dairy cows



Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 56: 266-269



Body covers are used on dairy stock in an attempt to increase production by reducing the amount of energy required for thermoregulation. Experiments were undertaken to determine the production response to covering calves, yearlings and cows at several sites representing different climatic conditions of the dairying districts of New Zealand. Calves (n=435) were randomly allocated tocovered or uncovered treatments on 5 farms in 1993 (n=249) using PVC covers and 4 farms in 1994 (n=186) using Jute covers. Calves were covered for approximately 6 weeks prior to weaning. The difference in total liveweight gain between the covered and uncovered calves within farms ranged from +2.6 kg (+- 1.9 kg) to -0.8 (+- 1.6 kg) for PVC covered calves and +1.7 kg (+- 4.2 kg) to -0.7 kg (+-1.7 kg) when Jute covers were fitted. Covers did not significantly affect the growth of calves on any of the farms in either year. Replacement heifer yearlings (n-232) on three farms were allocated to jute covered and uncovered treatments in early winter 1994. The difference in liveweight gain between the covered and uncovered heifer groups ranged from +5.7 kg (+- 3.5 kg) to -7.4 kg (+- 2.4 kg) after approximately 90 days. The use of covers significantly reduced (P lt 0.05) the liveweight gain on one of the farms where the animals were heavily infested with lice. Dairy cows on four farms were allocated to four balanced treatment groups. Treatments were an uncovered control, or Jute covers being fitted for winter or spring, or both winter and spring. The difference in liveweight change between the covered cows and the uncovered herd mates ranged from +6 kg (+- 3.5 kg) to -7 kg (+- 4.9 kg) during the winter and 9 kg (+- 4.1 kg) to -4 kg (+-5.2 kg) during the spring. Covered cows on one farm lost significantly less (P lt 0.05) weight during the spring, however these cows also had lower (P lt 0.05) milk solids production during the same period. Covers were not beneficial for any group of stock, on any of the farms involved.

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