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Leaving an imprint on your heifer and your bottom line

TL;DR:

  • Early breeding of a dam can impact the performance of her offspring.
  • Heifers born to dams bred early in their development had lower growth rates, pregnancy rates, and pre-calving weight.

What you need to know: Just like we leave an imprint of our boot in the snow, nutrition can leave an imprint on the fertility of our cattle. Nutritional imprinting describes how poor nutrition of a dam can impact the performance of her offspring—in this case, how choosing to breed our heifers early might affect the fertility of her offspring.

Angus heifers were either bred early in their development (660 lbs) or later in development (780 lbs); these represent 55% and 65% of the mature body weight of an average cow. Additionally, their daughters were either bred in early or late development.

And the results? Both generations of heifers bred early in their development had lower pre-calving body weight, 4% and 5%. Both generations of heifers bred in early development also had calves with lower weaning weights, pre-calving weights, puberty rate, pregnancy rates, and 21-day calving rates.

Industry Application: Breeding a heifer early to increase generation interval and derive offspring sooner can cost ranchers money due to the decreased reproductive performance of the dam and her progeny. Additionally, feeding a heifer to 65% of the 1200 lb mature cow weight before breeding may be beneficial to consider in a breeding program.

Read more about it: Difference in Body Weight at Breeding Affects Reproductive Performance in Replacement Beef Heifers and Carries Consequences to Next Generation Heifers