Reproductive performance of heifers offered ad libitum or restricted access to feed for a one hundred forty-day period after weaning
Journal of Animal Science
USDA-ARS, Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, MT 59301, United States; International Livestock Research Institute, IITA, PMB 5320, Ibadan, Nigeria
Reproductive performance was evaluated in composite heifers born over a 3-yr period that were randomly assigned to control (fed to appetite; n = 205) or restricted (fed at 80% of that consumed by controls adjusted to a common BW basis; n = 192) feeding for a 140-d period, beginning about 2 mo after weaning at 6 mo of age and ending at about 12.5 mo of age. Heifers were fed a diet of 67% corn silage, 18% alfalfa, and 9% of a protein-mineral supplement (DM basis). Restricted heifers consumed 27% less feed over the 140 d and had less ADG (0.53 ± 0.01 vs. 0.65 ± 0.01 kg/d; P < 0.001) than control heifers. After 140 d, all heifers were placed in common pens and subjected to an estrous synchronization protocol to facilitate AI at about 14 mo of age. Heifers were then exposed to bulls for the remainder of a 51-d breeding season. Average BW of heifers diverged within 28-d after initiation of feed restriction, and differences (P < 0.001) persisted through the prebreeding period (309 ± 1 vs. 326 ± 1 kg at approximately 13.5 mo of age) and subsequent grazing season (410 ± 2 vs. 418 ± 2 kg at about 19.5 mo of age). From the end of the 140-d restriction at about 12.5 to 19.5 mo of age, ADG was greater (P < 0.001) in restricted heifers than control heifers (0.51 ± 0.01 vs. 0.47 ± 0.01 kg/d). Proportion of heifers attaining puberty by 14 mo of age tended to be less (P = 0.1) in restricted (60 ± 3%) than control-fed heifers (68 ± 3%). Mean BW at puberty was less (P < 0.01) in restricted (309 kg) than control (327 kg) heifers. Pregnancy rate from AI tended to be less (P = 0.08) in restricted (48 ± 4%) than control heifers (57 ± 3%). Proportion of animals that were pubertal at breeding and pregnant from AI were positively associated (P < 0.1) with heifer age and ADG from birth to beginning of study. Final pregnancy rates were 87 and 91% for restricted and control heifers, respectively (P = 0.27). Day of breeding season that conception occurred was negatively associated with ADG from birth to weaning (P = 0.005), but was not associated with ADG within treatment (P = 0.60). Economic analysis revealed a $33 reduction in cost to produce a pregnant heifer under the restricted protocol when accounting for pregnancy rates and differences in BW and market prices between selection at weaning and marketing as open heifers at l.5 yr of age. A potential economic advantage exists for rearing replacement heifers on a restricted level of feeding during the postweaning period. © 2009 American Society of Animal Science.
animal; animal disease; article; body weight; cattle; economics; female; food intake; growth, development and aging; physiology; pregnancy; reproduction; weaning; Animals; Body Weight; Cattle; Feeding Methods; Female; Pregnancy; Reproduction; Weaning; Animalia; Bos; Medicago sativa; Zea mays