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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Nutrition and Environmental Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #311746

Research Project: STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE HEIFER SELECTION AND HEIFER DEVELOPMENT

Location: Nutrition and Environmental Management Research

Title: Relationship between pre-weaning gain, age at puberty, and reproductive tract development in Angus heifers

Author
item Cushman, Robert - Bob
item McNeel, Anthony
item Wright, Elane
item AMUNDSON, OLIVIA - South Dakota State University
item TENLEY, SARAH - University Of Nebraska
item LARIMORE, ERIN - South Dakota State University
item RICHARDSON, BRITTANY - South Dakota State University
item Chase, Chadwick - Chad
item PERRY, GEORGE - South Dakota State University
item CUPP, ANDREA - University Of Nebraska

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science Supplement
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/16/2014
Publication Date: 3/1/2015
Citation: Cushman, R.A., McNeel, A.K., Wright-Johnson, E.C., Amundson, O.L., Tenley, S.C., Larimore, E.L., Richardson, B.N., Chase, C.C., Perry, G.A., Cupp, A.S. 2015. Relationship between pre-weaning gain, age at puberty, and reproductive tract development in Angus heifers [abstract]. Journal of Animal Science. 92(Supplement 2):22.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Beef heifers should initiate reproductive cycles by 12 mo of age to insure multiple estrous cycles before the start of the breeding season to maximize fertility. Previous research indicated that pre-weaning gain positively influenced the onset of puberty and antral follicle numbers. Therefore, the objective of the current study was to examine differences in ADG and reproductive tract development between heifers that attained puberty before or after 12 mo of age. Angus heifers born in the spring of 2012 (n = 84) and 2013 (n = 115) were weaned and developed in a feedlot to attain 55% of estimated mature weight by the start of the breeding season. From March (322.3 ± 1.3 d) until May, heifers were examined monthly (age) by ultrasonography to determine pubertal status, antral follicle count, ovarian size, and uterine horn diameter. Heifers were classified as those that reached puberty prior to 12 mo of age (n = 65) and those that reached puberty after 12 mo of age (n = 134). Average daily gain and BW were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS with pubertal group as a fixed effect and year as a random effect. Antral follicle count and development of the reproductive tract were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS with age, pubertal group and the interaction as fixed effects and heifer and year as random effects. Body weights, post-weaning ADG, and age were not different between pubertal groups (P > 0.05); however, pre-weaning ADG was greater for heifers that achieved puberty by 12 mo than those that did not (P = 0.03; 0.91 ± 0.02 vs. 0.87 ± 0.03 kg/d). There was a significant effect of age on antral follicle count and ovarian size (P < 0.01), but these traits did not differ between heifers that attained puberty before 12 mo and those that did not (P > 0.05). There was a tendency for an interaction of age and puberty group on uterine horn diameter, such that heifers that attained puberty before 12 mo had a greater uterine horn diameter at a younger age (P = 0.06). These data indicate that pre-weaning ADG and uterine horn diameter are better predictors of puberty than age or BW. Since selection on BW increases cow size, replacement heifers should be selected using assessment of reproductive tract development rather than BW.