Relationships between feed efficiency and puberty in Bos taurus and Bos indicus-influenced replacement beef heifers.
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The objective of this experiment was to investigate the relationship between residual feed intake (RFI) and parameters associated with reproductive efficiency in growing beef heifers. One hundred and seventy-nine replacement beef heifers (Bos taurus and Bos indicus-influenced) were enrolled in a retrospective cohort design. Heifers were assigned to a 70-d feed efficiency test, and results were utilized to retrospectively classify heifers into low (n = 51), medium (n = 66), or high (n = 62) RFI groups based on their individual RFI values. Blood samples were collected weekly throughout the feed efficiency test and breeding season, which were analyzed for plasma concentration of progesterone to determine age at puberty (PUB). By design, residual feed intake differed among RFI groups where high (1.21 0.08 kg/d) had greater (P < 0.01) RFI than medium (0.00 0.08 kg/d) and low RFI groups (-1.49 0.09 kg/d), and medium had greater (P < 0.01) RFI than low RFI heifers. Yet, no differences were observed between breed types for RFI (P = 0.53). Average daily gain (ADG) differed between breed types where Bos taurus heifers had greater ADG (P = 0.02) than B. indicus-influenced heifers. Furthermore, ADG tended (P = 0.08) to differ among RFI groups, where medium RFI heifers tended to have reduced ADG compared with low and high RFI heifers. No differences were determined between breed types for gain-to-feed ratio (G:F; P = 0.20; however, G:F differed among RFI groups and was greater (P < 0.01) in low vs. high, and low vs. medium RFI heifers. The percentage of cycling heifers by the start of the breeding season differed (P = 0.03) by RFI group, where a greater percentage of low RFI heifers were cycling compared with high RFI heifers. A difference was determined on PUB between breed types (P = 0.03), where Bos taurus (393.40 4.64 d) heifers had a reduced PUB compared with B. indicus-influenced (406.90 5.07 d) heifers. In addition, PUB differed by RFI group where low (385.96 6.20 d; P < 0.01) and medium (398.47 5.47 d; P = 0.02) RFI heifers had a reduced PUB compared with High RFI heifers (416.03 5.58 d). In conclusion, more feed efficient heifers attained PUB earlier than less feed efficient heifers. Therefore, selection of heifers for feed efficiency may positively impact reproductive performance of replacement beef heifers.