Exposure to Ammoniated Wheat Straw as Suckling Calves Improves Performance of Mature Beef Cows Wintered on Ammoniated Wheat Straw
Journal of Animal Science
American Society of Animal Science
Wiedmeier, R. D., Provenza, F. D., & Burritt, E. A. (2002). Exposure to ammoniated wheat straw as suckling calves improves performance of mature beef cows wintered on ammoniated wheat straw. Journal of Animal Science, 80(9), 2340-2348.
We studied how exposure to ammoniated wheat straw (AWS) early in life affected the performance of 32 mature crossbred beef cows (Bos taurus) (mean BW = 615 kg) wintered on AWS. Half (16) of these cows had been exposed as suckling calves to AWS for 66 d (Exposed), while the other 16 cows had no previous exposure to AWS (Naïve). Five years after the initial exposure, cows were stratified by BW and bred into 8 groups of 4 cows each. Exposed and Naïve cows occurred in each group, and groups of 4 cows were randomly assigned to one of eight pens. Cows were fed in these pens for a 150-d wintering period from December to May for 3 consecutive years. All cows were allowed ad libitum access to AWS and supplemented with alfalfa hay, vitamins, and minerals. Cows and their calves grazed irrigated meadow pastures for the remainder of the year. Cow BW and body condition score (BCS) were monitored monthly during the 3-yr study. Milk production was measured monthly from June to November of each year using the weigh-suckle-weigh technique. For all 3 yr, yearly average BW (P = 0.06, 0.03, 0.07) and BCS (P = 0.07, 0.001, 0.01) were higher for Exposed than Naïve cows. Postpartum interval (PPI) to rebreeding, monitored using consecutive calving dates, was shorter for Exposed than Naïve cows during yr 1 and 2 (P = 0.004 and 0.02, respectively), but similar in yr 3 (P = 0.19). Exposed cows also produced more milk than Naïve cows during yr 1 and 2 (P = 0.04 and 0.07, respectively), but milk production was similar in yr 3 (P = 0.74). Collectively, calves exposed to AWS briefly early in life performed better as cows when reexposed to AWS from 5 to 8 yr later in life. Thus, researchers and managers should consider previous exposure to low-quality forages (LQF) when assigning cattle to studies involving the use of LQF or when considering using LQF to reduce food costs.