Impact of early castration and health status on the performance of Holstein-Friesian and beef crossbred calves

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Abstract

Introduction: This article presents the analysis of the correlation between the category and health status of calves and the results of their rearing and levels of selected blood parameters.

Material and Methods: The study included 105 Polish Holstein-Friesian and beef (Limousine, Charolaise and Hereford) crossbred calves. Young bulls were purchased at the age of two to four weeks. The animals underwent quarantine, were dehorned, and 46 young bulls were castrated. The germ horns were removed by burning out. Castration was carried out with a bloodless method using a rubber band. The calves were kept in groups and fed a milk replacer administered via teats from automated milk-feeding stations. After the period of milk feeding, the calves were fed grass silage ad libitum and a concentrate at 2.5 kg/animal/day. The calves were weighed every two weeks. Blood for analyses was sampled at 43 d of age.

Results: After the rearing period finished at the age of six months, young bulls and steers had similar body weights (176.17 and 176.55 kg) and approximate average daily weight gains from birth (0.756 and 0.767 g/day). The healthy calves at six months of age weighed 180.47 kg, whereas the animals which at least once suffered from some diseases during rearing were lighter by approx. 30 kg (P ≤ 0.01). A statistically significant (P ≤ 0.01) difference was found for the count of red blood cells and white blood cells. In comparison with healthy individuals, the diseased animals had less RBC (8.33 and 9.42 1012/L respectively) and more WBC (27.03 and 12.26 109/L respectively).

Conclusion: Castration of young bulls did not have any impact on the results of rearing and health status of the calves. The magnitude of the analysed parameters depended on the health status of the calves. Thus RBC and WBC parameters may be used to predict the health status of calves during rearing.

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