Effects of prepartum supplementation of linoleic and mid-oleic sunflower seed on cow performance, cow reproduction, and calf performance from birth through slaughter, and effects on intake and digestion in steers.
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Two experiments were conducted to determine the effects of sunflower seed supplements with varying fatty acid profiles on performance, reproduction, intake, and digestion in beef cattle. In Exp. 1, 127 multiparous spring-calving beef cows with free-choice access to bermudagrass hay were individually fed 1 of 3 supplements for an average of 83 d during mid to late gestation. Supplements (DM basis) included 1) 1.23 kg/d of a soybean hull-based supplement (control treatment); 2) 0.68 kg/d of linoleic sunflower seed plus 0.23 kg/d of the control supplement (linoleic treatment); and 3) 0.64 kg/d of mid-oleic sunflower seed plus 0.23 kg/d of the control supplement (oleic treatment). During the first 62 d of supplementation, the BW change was 11, 3, and -3 kg for cows fed the control, linoleic, and oleic supplements, respectively (P < 0.001). No difference in BW change was observed during the subsequent period (-65 kg, P = 0.83) or during the entire 303-d experiment (-31 kg, P = 0.49). During the first 62 d of supplementation, cows fed sunflower supplements tended (P = 0.08) to lose more body condition than cows fed the control diet, but BCS was not different (P > 0.22) for any subsequent measurement. At the beginning of the breeding season, the percentage of cows exhibiting luteal activity was greater for cows fed the control diet (43%; P = 0.02) than for cows fed either linoleic (20%) or oleic (16%) supplementation; however, first-service conception rate (67%; P = 0.22) and pregnancy rate at weaning (92%; P = 0.18) were not different among supplements. No differences were detected in calf birth (P = 0.46) or weaning BW (P = 0.74). In Exp. 2, 8 ruminally cannulated steers were used to determine the effects of sunflower seed supplementation on forage intake and digestion. Treatments (DM basis) included 1) no supplement; 2) a soybean hull-based supplement fed at 0.29% of BW/d; 3) whole linoleic sunflower seed fed at 0.16% of BW/d; and 4) whole high-oleic sunflower seed fed at 0.16% of BW/d. Hay intake was not influenced (P = 0.25) by supplement (1.51% of BW/d); however, DMI was greatest (P < 0.01) for steers fed the soybean hull-based supplement (1.93% of BW/d). Sunflower seed supplementation reduced (P < 0.01) NDF and ADF digestibility while increasing (P < 0.01) apparent CP and apparent lipid digestibility. In conclusion, whole sunflower seed supplementation resulted in reduced cow BW gain during mid to late gestation, but this reduction did not influence subsequent cow BW change, pregnancy rate, or calf performance.