Effects of Pre- and Postpartum Nutrition on Reproduction in Spring Calving Cows and Calf Feedlot Performance

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Journal of Animal Science



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Crossbred, spring-calving cows (yr 1, n = 136; yr 2, n = 113; yr 3, n = 113) were used in a 3-yr experiment to evaluate the influence of supplemental protein prepartum and grazing subirrigated meadow postpartum on pregnancy rates and calf feedlot performance. A 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments was used in a switchback design. From December 1 to February 28, cows grazed dormant upland range in 8 pastures (32 ± 2 ha each). The equivalent of 0.45 kg of supplement/cow per d (42% CP) was provided to half of the cows on a pasture basis 3 d/wk. For 30 d before the beginning of breeding (May 1 to May 31), half of the cows grazed a common subirrigated meadow (58 ha), and the remainder was fed grass hay in a drylot. Cow BW and BCS were monitored throughout the year, and steer calf performance was determined until slaughter. Feeding supplement prepartum improved (P = 0.01 to P < 0.001) BCS precalving (5.1 vs. 4.7) and prebreeding (5.1 vs. 4.9) and increased (P = 0.02) the percentage of live calves at weaning (98.5 vs. 93.6%) but did not affect (P = 0.46) pregnancy rate (93 vs. 90%). Calves born to dams fed supplement prepartum had similar (P = 0.29) birth weight (37 vs. 36 kg) but greater (P = 0.02) weaning weight (218 vs. 211 kg). However, steer feedlot DMI (8.53 vs. 8.48 kg), ADG (1.6 vs. 1.6 kg), and carcass weight (369 vs. 363 kg) were not affected (P = 0.23 to P = 0.89) by prepartum supplementation. Allowing cows to graze subirrigated meadow postpartum improved (P < 0.001) BCS prebreeding (5.2 vs. 4.9) but did not affect (P = 0.88) pregnancy rate (92 vs. 91%). Allowing cows to graze subirrigated meadow increased (P = 0.01) calf weaning weight (218 vs. 211 kg) but not (P = 0.62 to P = 0.91) feedlot DMI (8.4 vs. 8.3 kg), ADG (1.6 vs. 1.6 kg), or carcass weight (363 vs. 362 kg) of their steer calves. Increased percentage of live calves at weaning as a result of feeding supplemental protein increased net returns at weaning and after finishing in the feedlot. Net returns were increased by allowing cows to graze subirrigated meadow postpartum regardless of whether calves were marketed at weaning or after finishing in the feedlot.

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