Evaluation of the Effects of Heifer Development Method on Subsequent Reproductive Performance and Progeny Growth
Cain, Amanda Jillian
AdvisorSmith, David R.
Wills, Robert W.
The objective of the present study was to evaluate the effects of low input development protocols on Southeastern replacement beef females and their offspring. Fall and spring calving crossbred beef heifers managed through one of two heifer development programs (low input, LOW or conventionally developed, CON) were evaluated for metrics of uterine artery hemodynamics, patterns of heifer and offspring growth, postpartum reproductive performance, and economic efficiency. There were significant treatment × season (P = 0.0001) and season × day (P = 0.003) interactions on heifer body weight (BW) during gestation. There was a season × day interaction on total blood flow (TBF; P = 0.05) whereby TBF increased as gestation progressed and spring calving heifers displayed increased TBF. When adjusted for BW, an additional main effect of treatment was observed (P = 0.0007) in which LOW heifers had increased TBF compared to CON heifers. There were no significant main effects of treatment or season or interactions thereof on the proportion of females cycling at the start of the breeding season (P > 0.05). Additionally, there were main effects of treatment (P = 0.0095; P = 0.02) and season (P = 0.012; P = 0.007) on calf ADG and weaning weights, respectively whereby calves born to CON females grew faster than calves born to LOW heifers, and SPRING calves gained more rapidly than FALL calves. Partial budgeting demonstrated that LOW bred heifers were $250/hd less expensive to purchase than CON heifers due to lighter BW. Calves born to LOW females yielded $6.38 less per calf compared to CON calves. The discrepancy in reproductive efficiency coupled with the failure of LOW females to achieve BW similar to CON females resulted in a difference of $403/hd in average cull value between LOW and CON females in which CON females were worth more. Thus, CON females were $159.18 more profitable than LOW females when purchased as bred heifers and sold at the weaning of their first calf. In conclusion, though uterine artery BF was not negatively affected, low input heifer development resulted in sub-optimal heifer growth, poor first calf performance, and inadequate reproductive efficiency.