English

Developmental and reproductive characteristics of beef heifers classified by pubertal status at time of first breeding

Data collected for 10 or more years at the West Central Research and Extension Center, North Platte, NE (n = 1,104); the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory, Whitman, NE (n = 1,333); and the USDA, ARS, Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, MT (n = 1,176) were retrospectively analyzed to evaluate growth and reproductive performance of beef heifers classified by pubertal status before first breeding. Concentrations of progesterone in serum from 2 blood samples collected 9 to 11 d apart before the breeding season classified heifers as pubertal (progesterone ≥ 1.0 ng/mL in 1 or both samples) or nonpubertal (progesterone < 1.0 ng/mL in both samples). Average date of birth was earlier (P < 0.06) and proportion born in the first 21d of the calving season was 10 to 20 percentage points greater for heifers that were pubertal at the start of breeding compared with heifers not pubertal by the start of breeding. Heifers that were pubertal by the start of breeding were 7 to 10 kg heavier (P < 0.01) and 1 cm taller (P < 0.01) at weaning than heifers not pubertal by the start of breeding. Differences in BW persisted through the start of breeding to pregnancy diagnosis. Heifers that achieved puberty by the start of breeding had greater (P < 0.05) feed intake and G:F during postweaning development and had greater (P < 0.01) LM area and fat thickness over the LM at approximately 1 yr of age compared with heifers not pubertal by the start of breeding. Heifers that achieved puberty before the start of breeding had greater (P < 0.01) ADG from birth to weaning but slower (P < 0.10) rates of gain from the start of breeding through pregnancy diagnosis. Pregnancy rate was greater (P < 0.01) for heifers that were pubertal at the start of breeding. In heifers that became pregnant, those that were pubertal before the start of breeding calved earlier (P < 0.01), with a greater (P < 0.01) percentage calving in the first 21 d of calving than heifers not pubertal at the start of breeding. Calves from heifers that achieved puberty before the start of breeding were heavier at weaning (P < 0.01) than calves from heifers that had not achieved puberty by the start of breeding. In summary, heifers that failed to achieve puberty by the start of breeding were less desirable for several traits evaluated. Based on these results, implementing feeding strategies to increase the proportion of heifers that achieve puberty before first breeding could result in propagation of undesirable characteristics.

Resource: 2017. J. Anim. Sci. 95 (12): 5629-5636

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