A study was conducted to compare mature cow weight in the South African Simmental population when defined as the weight of the cow at calving or the weight of the cow at weaning of the calf. Data included in the analysis were 14458 records for cow weight at calving (CWT-C) representing 6534 cows and 18871 records for cow weight at weaning (CWT-W) representing 8395 cows. All cows were born between 1968 and 1996, while all calves were born between 1977 and 1998. The following effects had a significant influence on the traits and were included in the genetic analysis: Cow age in years fitted as a covariate term (linear and quadratic) and contemporary group fitted as a fixed effect. Contemporary group was defined as the unique combination of herd, birth year of calf, month of weighing, breeder-defined management group code for the calf and supplementary feeding code for the cow (for CWT-W). All analyses were done using ASREML, first fitting uni-trait and then bi-variate animal models that made provision for up to four weights per cow. The estimated genetic correlation obtained between the two cow weight traits was 0.95 ± 0.03, with a residual correlation of 0.61 ± 0.02. The heritability estimates for CWT-C and CWT-W from this analysis were 0.29 ± 0.04 and 0.37 ± 0.04, respectively. From a breeding perspective, these results confirm that little benefit is to be gained from weighing cows at calving if cows are to be weighed at weaning. If cow weights are to be recorded for an indication of cow maintenance costs, then weight at weaning is the more reliable and practical measure to record.
"Experientia docet" - Experience is the best teacher