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GESTATION LENGTH AND BIRTH WEIGHT

IN CATTLE AND BUFFALOES:


A R E V I E W 1"2
HENRY ANDERSENa AND MOGENS PLUM
Department of Dairy Science, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
ABSTRACT

The present review of literature summarizes in table form the available


information about gestation length and birth weight in cattle and buffaloes.
Both gestation length and birth weight ~ary greatly among breeds. I n cattle,
Aberdeen Angus seem to have the shortest gestation length (273 days) and
Brown Swiss the longest (292 days), whereas buffaloes have gestation lengths of
over 300 days. Younger cows generally have calves of lighter weight, whereas
the evidence of the influnce of age on length of gestation is more divided. In
almost all cases male calves are heavier than female calves, but sex of the calf
has been found to have less or, in some cases, no influence on length of gestation. Most of the heritability estinmtes for gestation length vary from 0.25 to 0.50,
whereas the heritability of birth weight is somewhat lower. There is a positive
relationship between gestation length and birth weight.
Many studies have been made of the gestation
length and birth weight of cattle and buffaloes.
An extensive review of the literature was published in 1952 by Brakel (13). Since then the
literature related to gestation length and birth
weight has increased considerably. The present
review of the literature cites what the authors
believe to be the more important studies in this
area including 65 references that have appeared
since 1952. A great many references are omitted,
however, because of lack of information about
the number of animals included in the study.

295.0 days. The gestation length for Egyptian


buffaloes is reported by Ghanem et al. (38) to be
316.4 days and by Ahmed and Tantawy (2) to
be 318.7 days.

Effect of age and parity number of dam. A

number of investigators have reported that the


age of the dam influences the length of the gestation period and that young cows carry their
calves for a shorter period than older cows (2,
13, 34, 38, 42, 43, 46, 52, 56, 57, 83, 93). Rendel
(82), in a study of 3,507 pregnancies of Swedish
cows, found that adult cows carried calf 0.7 day
longer than young cows. On the other hand, there
GESTATION L E N G T H
are other investigators who have reported that
Influence of breed. Results from 68 studies the gestation length is not influenced by age of
of the duration of the gestation length in cattle the dam (16, 19, 21, 25, 51, 54, 61, 91, 105).
and buffaloes are listed in Table 1. The mean
In some eases, the calving or parity number
gestation length of different breeds varies from
is reported to affect the length of the gestation
272.8 days in Aberdeen Angus as reported by period (30, 36, 42~ 43~ 47, 67~ 87, 102). BonaRife et al. (85) to 291.5 days in Brown Swiss as donna (12) reported that the gestation length
reported by De Fries et al. (28). Africander increases one to two days with each successive
cattle and Egyptian buffaloes have longer gesta- calf. 'l his seems to be a rather extreme case.
tion periods. Joubert and Bonsma (54) reported
J a f a r et al. (47) found the calving sequence to
a gestation length for Africander cattle of be positively correlated to gestation length for
female calves but not f o r male calves.
Received for publication March 23, 1965.
In other cases investigators found no relationPublished with the approval of the Director as ship between parity nmnber and gestation length
paper No. 1708, Journal Series, Nebraska Agricul(8, 55, 62, 68, 71, 80, 81, 92, 104). Generally
tural Experiment Station, Lincoln. This is a contri- speaking~ where significant effects of age of dam
bution from Regional Project NC-2, Improvement on gestation length have been found, the magniof Dairy Cattle Through Breeding.
tude of the effect seems to be about one day or
-~Data taken from a ~llesis presented to the Graduate College by the senior author in partial fulfill- less difference between the gestation lengths of
ment of the requirements for the Master of Scleace cows calving for the first time and older cows.
Effect of weight of dam. Some investigators
degree.
Present address: Institute of Artificial Insemi- claim that the gestation length is influenced by
nation, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural College, the weight of the dam. A positive correlation
Copenhagen, Denmark.
between body weight of the dam and the length
1224

GESTATION LENGTH AND BIRTH WEIGHT. A REVIEW

1225

TABLE 1
Gestation length in cattle and buffaloes
Gestation length
Breed

Reference

Aberdeen A n g u s

Foote (36)
Livesay (65)
Long (66)
Rife (85)
Wheat (106)
Weighted average

Ayrshire

Brown Swiss

Year
No. of
reported gestations Males
1960
1945
1948
1943
1958

A n a n t a k r i s h n a n (6) 1952
Brakel (13)
1952
De Fries (28)
1959
Fitch (35)
1924
Livesay (65)
1945
M~kel~ (68)
1955
McCandlish (71)
1922
Weighted average

Brakel (13)
De Fries (28)
Ineichen (46)
Stallcup (93)
Weaver (104)
Weighted average

1952
1959
1946
1956
1947

128
173
99
28
202
79
94
630
400
331
285
113
580
382
35
35O
378
2,126
45
170
3,105
25
148

1,684

282.7

Hereford

Brakel (13)
De Fries (28)
Fitch (35)
H e r m a n (43)
McCandlish (71)
Stallcup (93)
Weighted average

Burris (19)
Lasley (61)
Livesay (65)
Long (66)
Rice (84)
Rife (85)
Wheat (106)
Weighted average

Holstein-Friesian

Brakel (13)
Davis (25)
De Fries (28)
Fitch (35)
Foote (37)
I~erman (43)
J a f a r (47)
Knoop (56)
K n o t t (57)
Livesay (65)
McCandlish (71)
Norton (75)
Norton (75)
Stallcup (93)
W i n g (111)
Weighted average

1952
1959
1924
1953
1922
1956

1952
1961
1945
1948
1954
1943
1958

1952
1954
1959
1924
1959
1953
1950
1934
1932
1945
1922
1956
1956
J956
1899

277
215
103
227
77
38
235
210
937
188
414
174
101
443
29
275
321
296
1,624
354
755
1,054
220
536
1,306
384
432
2,824
4]5
111
1,953
2,065
375
97
5,207

282.2

Mean for
both sexes
278.6
282~5
276.4
272.8
279.5

282.7
282.2
279.36

284.6 + 0.71
278.1

284.6 _ 0.55
277.5

277
279.0

279

277.0
278.2
277.7
284.6
277.8
279.9
278

0.34
-~- 0.23
4.21
+ 0.44
-~- 4.30

278.7
278.4

291.5
288.8 ~__ 6.4
291.1
291.5

1,594
3,493
Gue~usey

Females

290.2
287.9 ___ 5.6
290.8

288.4
291.5
290.9
288.3
291.0

+_ 0.61
6.06
-4- 0.10
___ 5.9
6.0

290.2
290.9

283.5 + 0.6
284.1
282
283.5 --~ 7.0
283.5

282.5 -~- 0.54


282.9
281
282.3 4.7

282.7 -4- 0.28


284.7 ___ 4.46
283.0 0.46
284.5 (sic.)
281
283.0 ~_ 6.1

282.4
283.5

285.0

285.2

287.3 _~ 6.2

286.5 6.2

286.1 + 5.6
287.0
285.2
286.3
286.9
289.0
284.9

286.8
286.2
286.3
278.9

278.4

281.6
276.3
279.4

281.0
274.8
278.3

278.5 ~ 0.22
280.4 ~ 0.09
278.7
277.0
280.8
281.6
276.8 5.8

277.8 0.21
279.4 0.09
277.7
279.3
279.4
280.4
276.4 12.1

280.0

278.6 0.28
278.6
279.6 -+- 4.98
281.2 0.15
275.6
278.8
278.2 ~- 4.80
278.2 ~ 0.i5
279.9 0.06
278.3
278.0
279.9
281.0
276.6 +-- 4.6
280

~. ANDERSEN AND M. PLUM

1226

TABLE 1 Continued
Gestation length
Breed

Reference

Year
No. of
reported gestations Males

Black Pied
Friesian
Holstein-Friesian
Friesian Brazil
Friesian French
Friesian Swedish
Jersey

1944
1961
1949

447
100
168

Veiga (100)
Signoret (90)
Diiring (33)
Brakel (13)
Copeland (21)

1947
1956
1937
1952
1930

1,130
86
921
249
1,075
(579)
339
100
5O
1,003
373
265
73
183
159
100
1,353
415
1,408
1,400
5,737

De Fries (28)
Fitch (35)
Grossman (41)
Herman (43)
Knoop (56)
Livesay (65)
McCandlish (71)
McDowell (72)
McDowell (72)
McDowell (72)
Rollins (87)
Stallcup (93)
Weighted average
Various breeds
Africander
Brown Alpine
Caraeu
Dairy Cattle N. Z.
Danish Red
Egyptian buffaloes
Egyptian cattle
Flemish Brazil
Galloway
Gronigen
Gacko
Gir
Gujarat
Hariane
Meuse-Rhine
Montafor~
Murrah buffaloes
Nellore
Normandy
SahivaI
Simmental
Sindhi

South Devon
Spotted Mountain

Joubert (54)
Bonadonna (12)
Jordfio (51)
Ward (103)
Andersen (7)
Nielsen (74)
Rottensten (88)
Ahmed (3)
Ghanem (38)
Ragab (81)
Ahmed (3)
Ragab (81)
Jord~o (49)
White (108)
Willet (110)
Felegrini (78)
Lazarus (62)
' ' Mukteswar ' ' (73)
Briquet (16)
Kohli (59)
Jord~o (50)
Ogrizek (76)
Arunaehalam (8)
Arunachalam (8)
Veiga (99)
Signoret (90)
' ' Mukteswar ' ' ( 73)
Ogrizek (76)
Vul~avic (-102)
Anantakrishnan (6)
Dave (22)
Lazarus (62)
" M u k t e s w a r ~' (73)
Singh (92)
Joubert (52)
Hirt (45)

1959
1924
1949
1953
1934
1945
1922
1959
1959
1959
1956
1956

1959
1946
1938
1948
1962
1964
1956
1956
1955
1951
1956
1951
1947
1934
1950
1958
1952
1956
1948
1957
1951
1939
1952
1952
1946
1956
1956
1939
1952
1952
1950
1952
]956
1961
1957
1953

473
1,849
98O
2,228
615
982
5,517
151
424
410
180
855
125
116
3,425
2O4
359
891
210
797
179
206
250
225
254
395
5,246
4,296
4O6
856
4O6
1,003
2,556
220
1]0
2.760

Mean for
both sexes

279.0

5,785
12,881
Dinkhauser (30)
Dessouky (29)
Grossman (41)

Females

279.4
281.0

276.6

280.6 + 1.01
282.3 _~ 0.27

278.3 +__0.98
281.4 -+- 0.27

279.5

278.6

285.9 -~ 0.95

282.0 1.03

281.0
279.3
278.6
280

279.9
277.6
277,2
280

279.7
282.3 + 10.30
276.5
276.2 _+ 0.39

279.9 + 5.6
280.2

278.1 +_ 7.5

281.9 + 0.19
277.9 ~ 0.38
278.5
279.5
284.3
278.3
280.4
278.9
277.9
280
281.0
279.3
279.5
282.7
278.9

5.34
_~ 0.7

_ 0.27
+ 0.25
___ 0.46
~ 5.4
6.5

278.9
280.1
296.2 ___ 0.45

293.6 ___ 0.43

287.4 -~- 0.51


283.1 + 5.7
281.6 0.29
283.8

286.4 _--+-0.45
282.1 ~ 5.3
279.3 ~ 0.39
281.8

318.3

319.0

317.5
288.2
289.8
277.9
282.8 3.4

315.8
289.8
289.2
277.7
283.1 3.0

286.0

284.4

294.2
291.8 _ 0.87

291.1
289.7 ~ 0.94

291.9 ~- 0.36
287.5 1.01

290.0 -~- 0.46


286.4 ___ 0.98

286.0

285.0

284.1
283.5

282.2
282.5

286.5 0.5

284.5 O.5

295.0 ~- 0.32
286.8
286.9 _ 0.35
282.6 ~- 5.1
282.0
318.7
316.4
316.7
289.0
289.5
277.8
282.9
279.8
284.1
285.1
284.4
292.5
290.7
277.0
284.6
302.4
305.3
291.4

-*- 0.06
7.86
~ 8.8
_ 7.2
3.2
+ 0.09

_ 0.90
~ 0.82
-~- 0.50

285.9
287.8 _ 0.17
285.3
283.2 ~ 0.23
283.2
283.0
283.9
285.5 + 0.36
287.0
289.4

GESTATION

LENGTH

AND BIRTH

WEIGHT.

A REVIEW

1227

TABLE 1 Concluded
Gestation length
Breed
Swedish Red and White
Served by Red
Pied Bulls
Swedish Red and White
Served by Ayrshire
Bulls
Swedish Red and White

Reference

Rendel (82)

Year
No. of
reported gestations Males

1958 ]
t

Females

Mean for
both sexes

281.6
3,507

283.3
1958
1928 10,217 0.7 day longer
283.7 ~ 0.06
1959
4,991 Significantly longer
282.3 --+ 0.09
Swedish Polled
1959
1,950
286.0 ___0.13
Tharparker
1951
1,146 288.5 0.46 285.8 ~ 0.48 287.2 ---~.034
287.9
"Mukteswar" (73) 1 9 5 6 2,425
Singh (91)
1958
681
289.5 -4- 0.46 287.2 --+ 0.48 288.4 --+ 0.35
For some eases the gestation length is given with standard deviation and in other cases given with standard error.
Remodel (82)
Johansson (48)
Rendel (83)
Rendel (83)
Chaudhuri (20)

of gestation period was reported by Foote et al.


(37). Similar relationships have been found for
Indian and Egyptian cattle (3, 6, 59). No such
relationship was found for Finnish Ayrshire
cattle (68) and Simmenthal cattle in Yugoslavia
(102).
Seasonal effect on gestation length. A seasonal
effect on gestation length has been found in a
number of instances (3, 4, 20, 38, 42, 43, 46, 52,
53, 59, 67, 76, 78, 79, 81, 93, 102, 107). In
almost all cases, the longer gestation periods
were found in cows calving during the winter.
Several other reports indicate no seasonal effect
on gestation length (8, 16, 17, 29, 30, 33, 45, 47,
54, 61, 62, 87, 91, 92, 103).
Influence of sex of calf. A great many authors
have reported that bull calves are carried longer
in utero than heifer calves (2, 7, 10, 13, 14, 26,
28, 33, 42, 43, 74, 76, 87, 102). Burris and Blunn
(19) found that in Angus and Hereford cows
the bull calves were carried longer than heifer
calves; but, in beef Shorthorn, the heifer calves
were carried longer than bull calves. A longer
gestation period for heifer calves in Shorthorn
was also found by Foote et al. (36), whereas
this was not the case in Aberdeen Angus. K n a p p
et al. (55) found an effect of sex on gestation
length in beef Shorthorn, but the same authors
found no such effect in dairy Shorthorn.
Some investigators found that the sex did
not influence the gestation length (8, 61, 71, 91,
111). A nonsignificant effect of sex on gestation
length has been reported in some investigations
(17, 25, 29). Ghanem (38) found the gestation
length for female calves of Egyptian buffaloes
to be 1.5 days longer than for male calves. This
latter report on buffaloes and the two reports on
Shorthorns previously mentioned are the only
cases in which female calves have been reported
to be carried longer in utero than male calves.
The difference varies from 0.1 day to 6.5 days.

I n most cases, male calves are carried one to two


days longer than female calves.
Effect of sire on gestation length. Most studies
have indicated that the service sire has an influence on gestation length (3, 4, 13, 14, 35, 37,
39, 54, 57, 59, 74, 81, 82, 83, 84, 88, 105, 110).
However, a few investigators found no effect of
service sire on gestation length (8, 16, 17, 19).

Heritability and repeatability of gestation


length. Heritability estimates of gestation length
for cattle have been reported by several authors
(7, 28, 39, 47, 83, 87, 91, 93, 106). These estimates are based on data from dairy cattle as
well as beef cattle. The values range from zero
to 0.71, but the majority of the estimates are
between 0.25 and 0.50. De Fries et al. (28) have
estimated the pooled heritability of gestation
length in five dairy breeds to be 0.42. Ghanem
(39) found a heritability of 0.31 in buffaloes.
De Fries et al. (28), Jafar et al. (47), and
Wheat and Riggs (106) indicated that the gestation length can be shortened by selection. De
Fries et al. (28) estimated the repeatability of
gestation length for five dairy breeds to be 0.19,
which is much lower than the estimated heritability found in the same study. This suggested that
the length of the gestation is more a characteristic of the fetus than of the dam. J a f a r et al.
(47) and Wheat and Riggs (106) also found
estimates of repeatability of gestation length
lower than the estimates of heritability.
BIRTH WEIGHT

Influence of breed. Birth weights of calves


from cattle and buffaloes have been studied extensively. Results from 50 references are listed
in Table 2. This table shows that the average
birth weights for various breeds vary from 42
]b, as reported by Dave (22) for Sindhi cattle,
to 105.6 lb for Charollais cattle, as reported by
Dumont et al. (32).

II. ANDERSEN AND i~[. PLUM

1228

TABL]~ 2
Birth weight of the calf of different breeds
Birth weight
Breed

Reference

Aberdeen Angus

Bnrris (19)
Foote (36)
Weighted average

Ayrshire

Brown Swiss

1952
1960

Davis (24)
Donald (31)
Eckles (34)
Fitch (35)
Legault (64)
MeCandlish (71)
Weighted average

1956
1962
1918
1924
1962
1922

Legault (64)
Stalleup (93)
Weighted average

1962
1956

Davis (24)

Guernsey

F~ch(~5)

Legault (64)
MeCandlish (71)
Stalleup (93)
Weighted average

Hereford

Year
No. of
reported gestations

1956
1924
1962
1922
1956

Brinks (15)
Burris (19)
Gregory (40)
Joubert (53)
Lasley (61)
Rice (84)
Weighted average

1961
1952
1950
1959
1961
1954

Davis (25)
Davis (23)
Davis (23)
Eckles (34)
Fitch (35)
Fo0te (37)
Hilder (44)
L~gault (64)
MeCandlish (71)
Stalleup (93)
Tyler (98)
Willard (109)
Weighted average

1954
1955
1955
1918
1924

Holstein-Friesian

Black Pied
Dutch Frlesian
Friesian

Friesland
Holstein-Galloway

1959
1949
1962
1922

1956
1947
1948

184
128
92
92
312
100
82
53
115
213
35
203
213
598
163
24
87
76
187
78
104
154
77
38
176
159
451
4,432
188
281
48
414
323
2,699
2,525
5,686
755
262
239
154
75
536
229
587
74

375
794
108
830
815
4,188

Dinkhauser (30)
Stegdnga (94)
Stegenga (94)
Donald (31 )
Grossman (41)
Rognoni (86)

1944
447
1961~ 4,000
1961 ~
1962
1949
i958

84
168
144

Joubert (53)
White (108)

1959
1934

22
116

Males
67.1~0.95

Females
61.8 +- 0.79

Mean for
both sexes
64.2
56,2

67.1
68.8
60.9

73.0
75.0+-___1.35
84.3__-4=__2.4
68.0
79.1

65.0
69.0 +.~ 1.44
76.5 + 2.4
65.0

79.0
73.1 __ 1.7
69.0
72,0 -4- 1.03
80,4 +- 2.1
66.0

71.9
75.7
106.9+3.3

97.6 --+-3.5

102.6 --4-_3.0
95,1

106.9
97.6
101,6
67.0+-__1.18
76.2+3.3
66.0

60.0 ~- 1.17
67.5 -~ 3.7
61.0

72.0
64.0 -4- 0.90
71.1 _ 3.2
64.0
67.5

71.2
63.5
68.1
80.2--+-8.1
69.9--+-0.97
74.0+9.8

74.8 + 6.1
65.4 + 0.82
69.0 +- 8.8

73.0 -4- 8.10


79.0

70.7 +- 7.88

77.6
67.4
71.0 9.6
77.8 + 1.79
71.9 -~- 8.3
72.1

73.9
76.2
96.7

90.3

93.0

S8.0

i 0 1 . 0 + o 12

98.1+__1.7
97.0

90.9 ~ 1.96
91.1 ~ 1.8
89.0

93.5
88.0
90.0
90.0
95.0
91.8
95.8
94.7
94.0
92.8
92.9
89.5

-+- 1.57
+- 0.79
--~ 1.6

9.55

97.1
90.3
92.7
91.5 a
73'0a'b
84.9a, e

84.9 a
70.0 a, b
79.8 a, e

89.5 a
71.5a, b
82.4a, c
87.0
78.7 a
73.6 a

78.0
91.0+-8.7

76.6
85.0 ~ 7.2

77.2 1.89
87.9 +- 8.2

GESTATION LENGTH AND BII%TH WEIGHT. A REVIEW

]229

TABLE 2 Concluded
Birth weight
Breed
Jersey

Shorthorn

Reference
Davis (24)
Donald (31)
Eckles (34)
Fitch (35)
Grossman (41)
Hilder (44)
Legault (64)
Matthews (70)
McCandlish (71)
MeDowell (72)
MeDowell (72)
McDowell (72)
Stallcup (93)
Weighted average

Braude (14)
Burris (19)
Dawson (26)
Eckles (3.4)
Foote (36)
Knapp (55)
Knapp (55)
Weighted a~'erage

Various breeds
Afrieauder
Brown Alpine
Charo]lais
Czekosl. Red Spotted
Chiana
Danish Red

Egyptian buffaloes
Egyptian cattle
Fehnish Brazil
Gir
Hariana India
Meuse-Rhlne
Murrah buffaloes
Sindhi
South Devon
Spotted Mountain
Tharparker
Zeten Zebu

Year
No. of
reported gestations

Joubert (54)
Bonadonna (12)
Rognoni (86)
Dumont (32)
Suehanek (96)
Bujatti (18)
Andersen (7)
Hilder (44)
Nielsen (74)
Venge (101)
Asker (9)
As~er (9)
Jord~o (49)
Anantakrishnan (6)
Kohli (60)
Jord~o (50)
Arunachalam (8)
Lazarus (63)
Anantakrishnan (6)
Dave (22)
Singh (91)
Joubert (52)
Abelein (1)
Baehner (10)
Chaudhm'i (20)
Lazarus (63)

]956
1962
1918
1924
1949
1949
1962
1954
1922
1959
1959
1959
1956

1949
1952
1947
1918
]960
1940
1940

1957
1946
1958
1959
1961
1956
1962
1949
1964
1948
1953
1953
1947
1952
1957
1951
1952
1950
1952
1950
1961
1957
1959
1949
1951
1950

105
82
196
92
50
254
117
562
73
183
159
100
415
439
601
2,388
230
130
402
30
72
164
133
438
421
1,161
178
1,849
154
133
1,549
106
615
49
982
429
286
270
125
396
771
179
59
12
1,048
406
220
110
189
100
1,146
213

Males

Females

58.0
59.0 1.17

53.0
54.0 1.30

56.9 2.7
61.0
55.0

51.6 2.9
56.0
52.0

Mean for
both sexes
54.0
49.6 _+ 1.8
55.0
57.0 +_ 0.90
50.0a
55.2 0.46
54.4 -----2.4
57.6
54.0
59.6 _ 0.77
58.5 0.56
56.7 0.91
51.6

59.0
54.8
55.4
66.7 0.66
72.2
74.0

6].8 0.26
68.7
73.0

71.5
81.0
72.6

66.8
77.5

81.7
64.4
70.5
73.0
59.9
69.2
79.2

68.9
72.3

110.7a

101.2a

86.00.25a. b

80.2+0.22a. b

94.6 a,

88.6a. c

84.9 a
56.9 a
88.0a

80.2 a
52.7 a
81.4 a

51.8
88.8 a

49.9
83.8 a

81.4

70.2

71.5 0.67
90.4 a
70.5a
105.6 a
96.1 a
99.9 a
80.81.56a
88.2 a

49.3
73.2

48.1 a
101.8

45.6a
99.1

88.4 a
48.7
52.1

82.5 a
47.5
48.5

45.6
42.0
47.0a
87.5 a

a Converted from kilograms to pounds.


b First calving.
c Second and later calvings.
In some cases the birth weight is given with standard deviation and in other cases with standard
error.

Effect of age and parity number of dam.


Calves born f r o m mature cows are usually rep o r t e d to be heavier t h a n first-born calves. This
may be due to the heavier weight of the dam at

later parities or to aging. A n effect of p a r i t y


n u m b e r or age on birth weight has been r e p o r t e d
in a great m a n y instances (5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 19, 25,
26, 27, 30, 32, 36, 37, 55, 61, 64, 68, 89, 94, 95,

1230

H. ANDERSEN AND M. PLUM

96, 98, 101). Venge (101) claims that the birth


weight of the calf is influenced more strongly
by the dam's physiological age than by her
weight.
On the other hand, there are a few investigators who have not found any relationship between the birth weight of the calf and parity
number or age of the dam (10, 50, 54, 60, 74).
One of these (74) did not include first-parity
calves in his study, which may be the reason
for the failure to find any relationship between
age of dam and weight of calf.
Effect of weight of dam. There seems to be
general agreement between investigators that the
weight of the dam and sire has a positive relationship with birth weight of the calves. Table
3 gives some correlation coefficients between the
mature weight of the dam and the birth weight
of the calf. The correlations vary from 0.10 in
Red Danish bull calves (7) to 0.49 in beef
Shorthorn (26).
Seasonal effect on birth weight. I n a study of
birth weights of 414 Hereford calves born between F e b r u a r y 7 and June 23, Lasley (61)
found that those born from March 1 to March
15 were heavier than those born in other periods.
However, a great many investigators reported
that season of the year had little (31, 55, 98) or
no effect on birth weight (5, 8, 9, 10, 30, 54, 60,
69, 96).
Influence of sex of calf. There is general
agreement that bull calves are heavier at birth
than heifer calves. Table 2 gives information of
birth weight for each sex. Male calves were from
3 to 9 lb heavier at birth than female calves. In
a study involving Aberdeen Angus, Burris and
Blunn (19) found that female calves were slightly heavier at birth than male calves.
Effect of sire on birth weight of calf. Several
authors have found that the birth weight of the
calf is influenced by the sire (8, 12, 27, 35, 37,

89). Joubert and Bonsma (54) mentioned that


the sire may have a significant effect on the calf's
birth weight. Other investigators (19, 30, 61)
found that the sire effect on birth weight was
not significant, and Abelein and Ritter (1) stated
that there is no effect at all of sire on birth
weight.
Effect of gestation length on birth weight. The
relationship between the birth weight and the
number of days the fetus is carried in utero has
been studied by a great many investigators. In
most of these studies positive correlations were
obtained between these two characteristics varying from 0.15 to 0.52. Table 4 gives results from
some of these investigations. In addition, other
investigators have reported positive relationships
between these traits (10, 53, 55, 66, 67, 84).
However, some authors (8, 16, 30, 34, 35, 71,
77, 91) reported either a very small correlation
between gestation length and birth weight or
none at all.

Heritability and repeatability of birth weight.


Most of the heritability and repeatability estimates of the birth weight of calves have come
from beef cattle data. Burris and Blunn (19)
studied the paternal half-sib regressions and estimated a heritability of 0.22 for birth weight in
beef cattle. Using half-sib correlations, Dawson
et al. (26) estimated heritability of birth weight
in beef cattle to be 0.29. A f t e r adjusting the
data to the basis of male calves born by 6-yr-old
dams, the heritability estimate was 0.11. Koch
and Clark (58) estimated the heritability and
repeatability of birth weight in beef cattle from
4,553 calves. After the data had been adjusted
for year and sex effects, they found a heritability
of 0.35 0.11 and a repeatability of 0.26. Taylor et al. (97) computed repeatability estimates
of birth weight from 1,496 beef calves to be
0.18. F r o m correlations between half-sibs, Legault and Touehberry (64) computed heritabil-

TABLE 3
Correlation between mature weight of the dam and birth weight of the calf
Breed

Reference

INc. of Correlation
pairs coefficient

Ayrshire
Ayrshire X Sindhi
Dairy cows

MiikelK (68)
Anantakrishnan (6)
McCandlish (71)

382
364
369

0.]3
0.41
-~

Danish Red
Danish Red
Gir
Hereford
Hereford
Holstein
Shorthorn beef
Shorthorn, beef and dairy
Shorthorn, dairy
Red Sindhi

Andersen (7)
Anderson (7)
Anantakrishnan (6)
Gregory (40)
Gregory (40)
Foote (37)
Dawson (26)
Knapp (55)
Braude (14)
Anantakri.qhnan (6)

319
296
394
281
74
536
402
298
230
1.048

0.10
0.24
0.25
0.21
0.32
~0.49
0.22
-~
0.34

Remarks

6-8% of the dam's


weight
lst-calf males
lst-calf females
After calving
Before calving
P ~ 0.05
Up to 3rd calving

1231

GESTATION LENGTH AND BIRTH WEIGHT. A REVIEW

TABLE 4
Correlation and regression coefficientsbetween gestation length in days and birth weight in pounds

Breed

Reference

Ayrshire
Ayrshire X Sindhi
Three beef breeds
Brown Alpine
Buffaloes
Dairy, 5 breeds
Dairy, 5 breeds
Danish Red
Danish Red
Danish Red
Egyptian cattle
Egyptian cattle
Egyptian buffaloes
Gir
Holstein
Holstein-Friesian
Holstein Galloway
Jersey
Meuse-Rhine-Yssel
Shorthorn
Shorthorn
Shorthorn, dairy
Shorthorn, grades
Sindhi, Red
a In the case of no

Regression of
Correlation birth weight on
No. of pairs coefficient gestation length

M~kel~ (68)
382
0.33
Anantakrishnan (5)
364
0.24
Burris (19)
502
Bonadonna (12)
3,428
0.30
Ragab (81)
410
0.22
Brakel (13)
321
0.25
De Fries (28)
1,006
0.40
Andersen (7)
319
0.36
Andersen ( 7 )
296
0.23
Nielsen (74)
982
0.42
Ragab (81)
855
0.32
Ahmed (3)
180
0.34
Ahmed (3)
151
0.28
Anantakrishnan (5)
393
0.27
Davis (25)
755
0.26
3,afar (47)
76
0.52
White (108)
106
0.18
Rollins (87)
1,352
3,ordo (50)
179
0.22
Dawson (26)
165
0.30
Dawson (26)
142
0.32
Braude (14)
230
Ragab (81)
163
0.35
Anantakrishnan (5) 1,048
0.15
remarks, the sources are for both sexes.

ity estimates in dairy cattle to be 0.38. Computed


from regression of offspring on dam and f r o m
correlations between full-sibs, they found heritability estimates of 0.47 and 0.51, respectively.
Based on 568 birth weights Suehanek ( 9 6 ) c o m puted repeatability of birth weight in Red
Spotted cattle to be 0.22, and Asker and Ragab
(9) reported a heritability of 0.42 and a repeatability of 0.05 f o r cattle. I n buffaloes, they
found a heritability of 0.56 and a repeatability
of 0.55. The evidence f r o m all the studies indicates that the heritability of birth weight is
f a i r l y high.
CONCLUS:ONS
Gestation length and birth weight are influenced by many factors. Two m a j o r factors are
the sex of the calf and the age of the cow. Male
calves weigh more at birth and have a slightly
longer gestation period than female calves.
Calves f r o m young cows have shorter gestations
than calves f r o m older cows. There seems to be
some influence of season of calving. Calves born
during winter have slightly longer gestations
and are a little heavier at birth.
B o t h gestation length and birth weight are
influenced by heredity. Gestation length is more
heritable than birth weight. Results indicate that
both gestation length and birth weight are influenced more by the calf than by the dam which

Remarks a
Within cows

0.35

0.96
0.93
0.90
0.82

Within age of dam


Total for 5 breeds
Within breed
MaIes
Females

0.66
0.36
Males
Females
0.91

carries the calf. F o r this reason selection among


calves for, or against, short gestation length and
small birth weight should produce fairly rapid
changes.
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ABA denotes Animal Breeding Abstract.


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1232

~. ANDERSEN AND ~. PLU~

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(38)

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(49)

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(50)

(51)

(52)

(53)

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(55)

(56)

(57)

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(62)

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1233

me~
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