Effects of energy supplementation frequency and forage quality on performance, reproductive, and physiological responses of replacement beef heifers
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The objective of this study was to compare performance, physiological, and reproductive responses of beef heifers consuming forages differing in nutritional quality and offered a low-starch energy supplement at 2 different frequencies. Forty-eight Brahman × British heifers (initial age = 294 ± 3 d) were allocated into 1 of 16 drylot pens (3 heifers/pen) which were randomly assigned to receive, in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments: 1) low-quality hay [LQ; stargrass (Cynodon nlemfuensis) with 8% CP and 81% NDF, DM basis] and daily supplementation (S7); 2) LQ and supplementation 3 times weekly (S3); 3) medium-quality hay [MQ; bermudagrass (C. dactylon) with 12% CP and 74% NDF, DM basis] and S7; and 4) MQ and S3. Throughout the study (d 0 to 120), hay was offered in amounts to ensure ad libitum access, and a supplement based on soybean hulls and wheat middlings was offered at weekly rates of 15.8 and 7.9 kg/heifer (DM basis) for LQ and MQ, respectively. Forage and total DMI were evaluated daily, from d 20 to 26, d 34 to 40, and d 48 to 54. Blood samples were collected weekly for determination of plasma progesterone to evaluate puberty attainment. Blood samples were also collected daily, from d 13 to 16, d 27 to 30, d 41 to 44, and d 55 to 58 for determination of plasma urea nitrogen (PUN), glucose, insulin, IGF-I, and NEFA. On d 60, heifers were reallocated by treatment into 4 paddocks and exposed to Angus bulls (1:12 bull:heifer ratio) until d 120. Date of conception was estimated retrospectively by subtracting gestation length (286 d) from the calving date. Heifers receiving S7 had similar (P = 0.52) ADG compared with S3 heifers (0.27 vs. 0.25 kg/d). Heifers provided S7 had less daily variation in hay DMI and plasma concentrations of glucose, NEFA, and IGF-I compared with S3 cohorts (supplementation frequency × day interaction; P < 0.01). Similarly, heifers offered MQ and LQ and receiving S7 had less daily variation in total DMI, energy and protein intake, and plasma concentrations of PUN compared with heifers offered MQ and LQ and receiving S3 (hay quality × supplementation frequency × day interaction; P < 0.01). Attainment of puberty and pregnancy were hastened in S7 heifers compared with S3 heifers (supplementation frequency × week interaction; P < 0.02). Therefore, reproductive development of beef replacement heifers consuming diets based on low- and medium-quality forages are enhanced when low-starch energy supplements are offered daily instead of 3 times weekly.
author list (cited authors)
Moriel, P., Cooke, R. F., Bohnert, D. W., Vendramini, J., & Arthington, J. D.