Date of this Version
Three experiments were conducted to evaluate the response of supplementing primiparous heifers based on the metabolizable protein (MP) system during pregnancy and lactation. In Exp. 1, 12 pregnant, March-calving heifers (432 ± 10 kg) grazing Sandhills range were randomly allotted to one of two treatments: supplementation based on either the MP system (MPR) or the CP system (CPR). Supplements were fed to individual heifers from October to February and no hay was offered. Grazed forage organic matter intake (FOMI) was measured in November, January, and February. In Exp. 2, 18 heifers (424 ± 8 kg) were randomly allotted to one of three treatments: 1) supplementation based on the MP system with hay fed in January and February (average 2.0 kg/d; MPR/hay), 2) supplementation based on the CP system, with hay fed in January and February (CPR/hay), or 3) supplementation based on the MP system, with no hay fed (MPR/no hay). Supplements were fed from October to February, and FOMI was measured in December and February. In Exp. 3, lactating 2-yr-old cows (394 ± 7 kg) maintained on meadow hay were supplemented to meet either 1) MP requirements (LMPR) or 2) degradable intake protein requirements (LDIPR). Body weight (BW) and body condition score change, hay intake, and milk production were measured. In Exp. 1, grazed FOMI decreased (P = 0.0001) from 1.9% of BW in November to 1.2% in February, but no differences among treatments were detected for FOMI or BW change. In Exp. 2, grazed FOMI declined (P = 0.0001) from 1.7% of BW in December to 1.1% in February, with no differences among treatments. Heifers on the MPR/hay and CPR/hay treatments had higher (P = 0.0018) total intake (grazed forage + hay intake) in February (1.7% BW) than the MPR/no hay heifers (1.1% BW). Heifers on the MPR/ no hay treatment had a lower weight (P = 0.02) and tended (P = 0.11) to have a lower BCS than heifers on other treatments. In Exp. 3, the LMPR cows had higher (P = 0.02) ADG than LDIPR cows (0.41 and 0.14, respectively), but treatment did not affect milk production. Organic matter hay intake averaged 2.4% of BW. We conclude that supplementation to meet MP requirements had little benefit to heifer performance during gestation, but increased weight change during lactation. Because grazed forage intake decreased from 1.9 to 1.1% of BW with advancing gestation, supplemental energy is necessary to reduce weight and condition loss of gestating hefiers grazing dormant Sandhills range.