Effect of weather patterns on preweaning growth of beef calves in the Northern Great Plains


Records from a 76-year investigation into effects of line breeding and selection of Hereford cattle, and concurrent weather records, were used to assess effects of weather patterns on growth of suckling calves. Calf growth data were adjusted for trends arising from selection and inbreeding, and for effects of age of dam and sex of calf to produce clean estimates of year effects. Daily maximum and minimum temperatures were summarized to identify first and last days of a 1500 growing degree growing season. Precipitation was accumulated from: 1) end of the growing season the previous year through 31 December; 2) 1 January through the beginning of the current year growing season; and 3) during the current growing season. Principal components were used to characterize years. Pre-weaning growth of the calves in sets of eight extreme years identified by each of the principal component was contrasted. Irrespective of precipitation pattern before the growing season and with near or above average precipitation during the growing season, calves reared in years characterized by longer, cooler growing seasons grew faster from birth to weaning than in opposing years. This retrospective analysis indicates a general increase in temperature could decrease growth of suckling calves on the Northern Great Plains of North America.

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MacNeil, M. and Vermeire, L. (2012) Effect of weather patterns on preweaning growth of beef calves in the Northern Great Plains. Agricultural Sciences, 3, 929-935. doi: 10.4236/as.2012.37113.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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