Date of this Version
Transl. Anim. Sci. 2019.3:541–548
A retrospective analysis was conducted to evaluate the effect of number of estrous cycles exhibited before breeding on growth and reproductive performance of replacement beef heifers fed ad-libitum or restricted by 20% less than ad-libitum during postweaning development over a 9-yr period. Progesterone concentration in blood samples collected at 9- to 11-d intervals were used to assign heifers into groups by number of estrous cycles exhibited before the start of breeding: 0 (nonpubertal; n = 395), 1 (n = 205), 2 (n = 211), 3 (n = 116), or >3 (n = 249). Heifers (P < 0.01) in the 0 cycle group were born 6 d later than the 1, 2, or 3 cycle groups, which were born 4 d later (P < 0.01) than the >3 cycle group. Weight of heifers at birth decreased (P < 0.05) as the number of cycles increased. Weaning weight and ultrasound measures of loin area and fat thickness over the loin at 1 yr age increased as the number of cycles increased (P < 0.01). Postwean weight gain, hip height at 1 yr age, and weights from the start of breeding through precalving increased with cycle numbers in a quadratic fashion (P < 0.02) and were greater (P < 0.05) in ad-libitum than restricted-fed heifers. Pregnancy rate in the 0 cycle group was lower (84%; P < 0.05) than the 1 (90%) or >3 (94%) estrous cycles groups and tended to differ (P < 0.1) from the 2 (88%) and 3 (89%) estrous cycle groups. Interval from the start of breeding to calving was 3 to 5 d longer (P < 0.05) for the 0 cycle group (300 ± 1 d) than other groups. Proportion of heifers calving in the first 21 d was less (P < 0.05) in the 0 or 1 cycle groups than other groups. Pregnancy rates of 2-yr-old cows (n = 898) were lowest (P < 0.05) for the 0 (73%) and 2 (79%) estrous cycle groups than the 1 (85%), 3 (90%), or >3 (92%) estrous cycle groups. Restricted level of feeding during postweaning development resulted in greater (P < 0.05) proportion of heifers in 0 cycle group and lower (P < 0.05) proportion in >3 cycle group, but reproductive performance was not influenced (P > 0.1) by level of feeding or interaction of feeding and estrous cycle grouping. In summary, date of birth and rate of physical maturation (weight, height, and fat deposition) were associated with timing of puberty. Pregnancy rate was greater in heifers that exhibited estrus before the start of breeding, but did not improve from having more than one estrous cycle. Proportion conceiving early was greater for heifers having two or more cycles before breeding.