Nutrition-induced Changes of Growth from Birth to First Calving and Its Impact on Mammary Development and First-lactation Milk Yield in Dairy Heifers: A Review

  • Lohakare, J.D. (College of Animal Life Sciences, Kangwon National University) ;
  • Sudekum, K.H. (Institute of Animal Science, University of Bonn) ;
  • Pattanaik, A.K. (Centre of Advanced Studies in Animal Nutrition, Indian Veterinary Research Institute)
  • Received : 2012.05.22
  • Accepted : 2012.06.24
  • Published : 2012.09.01


This review focuses on the nutritional effects from birth until age at first calving on growth, mammary developmental changes, and first-lactation milk yield in heifer calves. The advancement in the genetic potential and the nutritional requirements of the animals has hastened the growth rate. Genetic selection for high milk yield has suggested higher growth capacity and hence increasing nutritional inputs are required. Rapid rearing by feeding high energy or high concentrate diets not only reduces the age of sexual maturity but also lowers the time period of attaining the age of first calving. However, high energy diets may cause undesirable fat deposition thereby affecting future milk yield potential. Discrepancies exist whether overfed or overweight heifers at puberty can influence the mammary development and future milk yield potential and performance. The data on post-pubertal nutritional management suggested that body weight at calving and post-pubertal growth rate is important in first lactation milk yield. There is a continuous research need for strategic feeding that accelerates growth of dairy heifers without reduction in subsequent production. Nutritional management from birth, across puberty and during pregnancy is critical for mammary growth and for producing a successful cow. This review will mostly highlight studies carried out on dairy breeds and possible available opportunities to manipulate nutritional status from birth until age at first calving.


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