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Body Condition Score and Body Weight Effects on Dystocia and Stillbirths and Consequent Effects on Postcalving Performance

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 20:27 authored by Berry, DP, Lee, JM, Macdonald, KA, Roche, JR
The objective of this study was to quantify the effect of periparturient body condition score (BCS) and body weight (BW) related traits on the incidence of calving dystocia and stillbirths, and to determine any consequent effect of dystocia and stillbirths on BCS, BW, milk production, udder health, and fertility in grazing Holstein-Friesian dairy cows. Up to 2,384 lactation records with data on calving dystocia or stillbirths were available from one research herd across 15 yr. Mixed models and generalized estimating equations were used to quantify all effects. Body condition score or BW 8 wk precalving or at calving, or change precalving did not significantly affect the odds of a difficult calving or stillbirth. Cows that experienced dystocia lost, on average, more BCS and BW between calving and nadir and had significantly reduced nadir BCS and BW. Incidence of stillbirths did not affect BCS in early lactation, although BW loss postpartum was greater following a stillbirth. A dystocia or stillbirth event was associated with reduced 60-d milk yield (42 and 52 kg less milk produced following a difficult calving or a stillbirth, respectively). The effect of stillbirth on milk yield was independent of dystocia. Cows that experienced dystocia had reduced milk concentration of fat, protein, and lactose, whereas average somatic cell score (natural logarithm of somatic cell count) in the first 60-d postpartum was elevated. There was no significant effect of dystocia or stillbirth on clinical mastitis, but pregnancy rates to first service and throughout the 12-wk breeding season were compromised in cows that had experienced difficulty at calving. The significance of the effects of stillbirth on somatic cell score and reduced fertility were mediated through its association with dystocia. In conclusion, periparturient BCS and BW within the range observed in the current study did not significantly affect incidence of dystocia and stillbirth, but these events negatively affected cow performance in early lactation. © American Dairy Science Association, 2007.


Publication title

Journal of Dairy Science










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


American Dairy Science Association

Place of publication

United States

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Dairy cattle

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    University Of Tasmania