Several studies in recent years have shown replacement heifers can weigh less at first breeding than previously assumed without reducing conception or calving rates. With feed prices high, less intensive heifer feeding could reduce development costs. Researchers at West Virginia University recently completed a heifer-development trial and published their results in the Journal of Animal Science. The researchers developed weaned, spring-born Angus-based heifers, with beginning weights averaging 546 pounds, for six months. They grazed the heifers on stockpiled pastures, with one group allotted enough forage to consume 3.5 percent of bodyweight and the other group allowed to consume 7 percent of bodyweight. Following grazing, both groups of heifers received a ration of haylage and soybean hulls. At the start of breeding, the heifers that received the low-forage treatment weighed an average of 759 pounds compared with 796 for the high-forage group. The researchers found no differences between the groups in pregnancy rates from AI or cleanup bulls and no difference in total pregnancy rates. They concluded that heifers can be managed for slower gains early in development without damaging reproductive performance.
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