Late gestation supplementation of beef cows differing in body condition score: effects on cow and calf performance.
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A 2-yr study utilizing 120 mature, crossbred (Angus Herford) cows/year, evaluated the influence of cow BCS and dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) supplementation during late gestation on cow performance and productivity of subsequent offspring. Treatments were arranged as a 22 factorial in a randomized complete block design with 2 BCS and with or without DDGS supplementation. Cows were nutritionally managed to enter the last trimester of gestation with a BCS of approximately 4 (LBCS) or 6 (HBCS) and were thereafter managed in a single herd (initial BCS were 4.4 and 5.7 for LBCS and HBCS treatments, respectively). During the last trimester, 12.7 kg/cow of low quality meadow hay (6.4% CP; DM basis) was provided each day. Supplemented cows were gathered and sorted into pens (12 pens; 5 cows/pen; 6 pens/BCS) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and received the equivalent of 0.9 kg/cow daily of DDGS (31% CP; DM basis; supplement was consumed within 30 min on each supplementation day). Calf birth weight was greater for HBCS compared to LBCS (P=0.001) and for supplemented compared to nonsupplemented cows (P=0.04). Cow weight at weaning was greater for HBCS compared with LBCS (P<0.001); however, no differences were noted because of supplementation (P=0.16). Weaning weight was greater for the offspring of supplemented compared to nonsupplemented cows (P=0.02). There were no differences in postweaning calf performance (growing lot and feedlot) or carcass characteristics (P>0.05) due to treatments. Nevertheless, HBCS cows had approximately 10% more live calves at birth and at weaning (P0.01) compared to LBCS cows. Consequently, the total weaned calf weight per cow was 26 kg greater for HBCS compared with LBCS (P=0.004). Pregnancy rate was greater (P=0.05) for HBCS than LBCS cows (92% vs. 79%, respectively) but not affected by supplementation (P=0.94). This research demonstrates the potential consequences of not maintaining cows in adequate BCS at calving. Also, though it appears that supplementation of beef cows with DDGS during late gestation has a positive effect on weaning weight, there was no apparent developmental programming effect on feedlot performance and carcass characteristics of calves.