Accuracy of Recorded Birth and Calving Dates of Dairy Cattle in the United States

H. D. Norman, J. L. Edwards, and J. R. Wright
Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

ABSTRACT Frequencies of births that were reported for specific days of the month were documented for US dairy cattle born since 1987 by birth year, herd size, and registry status and compared with calving frequencies for those dates. Because birth dates are expected to be random and uniformly distributed throughout each month, percentages of births on individual dates were expected to be equal (3.3% for d 1 to d 28, 3.2% for d 29, 3.0% for d 30, and 1.9% for d 31). However, percentages of reported birth dates for d 1, 2, 10, 15, and 20 were higher than expected. The percentage of reported births for d 1 was highest (5.3%) of all days of the month regardless of herd size or registry status. The nonuniform distribution of birth dates within month indicated that a substantial number of birth dates were unknown and that estimated birth dates had been reported. About one-third of the birth dates recorded on d 1 appeared to have been estimated, or altered to gain an advantage in cattle shows. The highest frequencies for birth dates on d 1 (5.9 to 7.4%) were found for registered cows during months that initiated age groupings for dairy shows (March, June, September, and December). Birth dates for some registered cows were intentionally misreported as confirmed by comparison of birth dates of individual cows with calving dates of their dams. Reported calving dates appeared to be more accurate than reported births; the inflated frequency of recorded calvings on d 1 was only about 30% as large as the inflated frequency of recorded births. Because cow age is determined by birth date, proper reporting of birth dates is important to ensure the accuracy of standardized yield and fitness records and the genetic evaluations that are based on those records. When animals' recorded birth dates and their dams' calving dates differ, more credence should be given to the latter to improve accuracy.

(Key words: birth date, calving date, record accuracy)

2001 J. Dairy Sci. 84:2089-2096

© 2001, by the American Dairy Science Association. All rights reserved.