More efficient beef cattle with restricted feeding
Reducing the amount of feed given to young female cows called heifers can result in more efficient use of nutrients for growth and reproduction, according to studies conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
According to Roberts, this strategy of providing less feed may reduce costs of developing each replacement heifer by more than $31 and extend their lifespan, with important ramifications for lifetime efficiency and profitability. Feed represents 50 to 55% of total costs of developing replacement heifers.
In their study, begun in 2001, heifers were divided into two lifetime treatment groups: The control group was fed according to industry guidelines, and the restricted group was fed (on a body-weight basis) 80% of feed consumed by their control counterparts for 140 days, ending when they were 1 year old.
The restricted heifers grew slower and weighed less at any point in time as a consequence of less feed. Final pregnancy rates were 87% for restricted heifers and 91% for controls.
According to Roberts, restricting feed allows nature to decide which heifers were reproductively efficient: Less efficient heifers would eventually fail to reproduce and be culled if restricted, whereas feeding more would keep them in production but result in more expense for the producer.
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