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Beef heifer development within three calving systems

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A 3-yr study was conducted to evaluate the effects of calving system, weaning age, and postweaning management on growth and reproduction in beef heifers. Heifer calves (n = 676) born in late winter (average birth date = February 7 +/- 9 d) or early spring (average birth date April 3 +/- 10 d) were weaned at 190 or 240 d of age, and heifers born in late spring (average birth date May 29 +/- 10 d) were weaned at 140 or 190 d of age. Heifers were managed to be first exposed to breeding at approximately 14 mo of age. After weaning, the calves were randomly assigned to treatments. Heifers on the constant gain treatment were fed a corn silage- and hay-based diet. Heifers on delayed gain treatments were placed on pasture but were fed grass hay or a supplement, or both, depending on the forage conditions. Three months before their respective breeding seasons, delayed gain heifers were moved to drylot and fed a corn silage- and barley-based diet (late winter or early spring) or moved to spring rangeland (late spring). The data were analyzed using mixed model procedures with calving system, weaning age, and postweaning management options creating 12 treatments. Average daily gain was 0.36 +/- 0.05 (SED) kg/d less (P < 0.001) for delayed gain heifers during the initial phase, whereas these heifers gained 0.44 +/- 0.03 kg/d more (P < 0.001) than constant gain heifers during the last 90 d before breeding. Body weights at the beginning of the breeding season did not differ (P = 0.97) between constant gain and delayed gain heifers but were affected by calving system and weaning age, reflecting some of the differences in initial BW. Prebreeding BW for heifers weaned at 190 d of age were 36 +/- 6.4 kg heavier (P < 0.001) for those born in late winter and early spring compared with late spring and were 388, 372, and 330 kg for heifers weaned in October at 240, 190, or 140 d of age (linear effect, P < 0.001). The proportion of heifers exhibiting luteal activity at the beginning of the breeding season was not affected (P = 0.57) by treatment. Approximately half of the heifers were randomly selected for breeding. Treatment had no effect (P = 0.64) on pregnancy rates. In conclusion, heifers from varied calving systems and weaning strategies can be raised to breeding using either constant or delayed gain strategies without affecting the percentage of heifers cycling at the beginning of the breeding season. These results suggest that producers have multiple options for management of heifer calves within differing calving systems.
Grings, E.E. , Geary, T.W. , Short, R.E. , MacNeil, M.D.
Includes references
Journal of animal science 2007 Aug., v. 85, no. 8
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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