Reducing the amount of feed given to heifers can result in more efficient use of nutrients for growth and reproduction, according to a study conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
In the study, USDA animal scientist Andrew Roberts and colleagues divided heifers (50 percent Red Angus, 25 percent Charolais, and 25 percent Tarentaise) into two lifetime treatment groups. The control group was fed according to industry guidelines, and the restricted-feed group was fed 80 percent of feed consumed by their control counterparts for 140 days. The feeding treatments ended when the animals were one year old. The restricted feed heifers grew slower and weighed less at any point in time as a consequence of less feed.
Researchers found that the restricted feed heifers grew to target weights lower than those traditionally recommended, consumed 27 percent less feed over the winter months, and gained weight more efficiently throughout the postweaning period and subsequent grazing season.
Final pregnancy rates were 87 percent for restricted heifers and 91 percent for controls.
According to Roberts, restricting feed allows nature to decide which heifers were reproductively efficient.
“The strategy of providing less feed may reduce costs of developing each replacement heifer by more than $31 and extend their life span, with important ramifications for lifetime efficiency and profitability,” Roberts said
The study, “Beef Cattle: Improving Production Effeciency and Meat Quality,” was published in the January 2011issue of Agricultural Research magazine (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan11/cattle0111.htm).