Rearing a calf to weaning is a key measure of performance in a beef breeding cow herd. Adequate intake of colostral antibodies by the calf in the first few hours of life is important for passive transfer of immunity, and so is beneficial for calf survival. This experiment aimed to examine the role of udder conformation, maternal age and breed-cross on the colostral status of suckled calves. Udder conformation of Angus, Angus-cross-Friesian, Angus-cross-Jersey and Angus-cross-Kiwicross cows was scored according to Animal Evaluation Limited and BreedPlan standards, and colostral status of calves was determined based on gamma glutamyltransferase activity, immunoglobulin G and total protein concentrations at 24-48 hours of age. Udder conformation was similar (P>0.05) among breed-crosses except Angus cows had looser front udder attachment, lower rear udder attachment and less desirable udders overall than Angus-cross-dairy cows (P<0.05). Most udder conformation scores did not affect colostral status of calves. The exception was teat placement score, for which more outward-pointing teats were associated with improved colostrum status of calves (P<0.05). Survival to weaning was greater for calves with adequate compared with inadequate colostral status (P<0.001).
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, 2016, 76 pp. 163 - 168 (5)