Biological markers of neonatal calf performance: The relationship of insulin-like growth factor-I, zinc, and copper to poor neonatal growth

T. W. Graham, E. Breher, Thomas B Farver, James S Cullor, M. E. Kehrli, A. M. Oberbauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Raising a heifer calf to reproductive age represents an enormous cost to the producer. Poor neonatal growth exacerbates the costs incurred for rearing, and use of blood variables that may be associated with poorly growing calves may offer predictive value for growth and performance. Thus, the principal objective of the present study was to describe changes in serum IGF-I, zinc, and copper from birth to 90 d in Holstein calves, while accounting for sex and twin status, in poorly growing calves and calves growing well. A second objective was to test the hypothesis that an association exists between these serum variables and morphometric indicators of growth. Measurements of BW, length, and height were recorded at birth and at 30, 60, and 90 d of age. Jugular blood (12 mL) was collected from each calf on d 1 to determine serum total protein, serum IgG, packed cell volume, serum zinc, serum copper, serum IGF-I, and CD18 genotype for bovine leukocyte adhesion deficiency; serum zinc, serum copper, and serum IGF-I (predictor variables) were also determined for each calf on d 2 through 10 and on d 30, 60, and 90. Stepwise multiple regression and logistic regression analyses were used to examine the relationships between the predictor variables and the dependent variables (BW, height, and length at d 30, 60, and 90 of life). Birth weight, sex, serum IGF-I (at all ages), serum copper, and the serum copper-to-zinc ratio were associated, to varying degrees, with the dependent growth variables. Birth weight was consistently the dominant predictor. In conclusion, these results suggest that lighter birth weight, reduced serum IGF-I, and inflammation may be important causes of poor growth in neonatal Holstein dairy calves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2585-2593
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Calf
  • Copper
  • Growth
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin-like growth factor
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Medicine(all)


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