Don’t Feed Them to Breed Them

Researchers at the USDA's Agriculture Research Station are learning that feeding heifers more in their first year may not be the best way to get the best pregnancy rates or cattle performance.  According to scientist Andy Roberts, “For the last 3 to 4 decades, the mantra has been ‘feed them to breed them,’ which means providing enough feed during the first year to ensure that young heifers reach puberty to start reproducing. But our studies indicate this doesn’t seem to be optimal in the long run. Our research shows that by feeding to get all the animals bred, you are also propping up the inefficient animals—those that won’t consistently produce calves when put in nutrient-limited environments later in life.” The researchers looked at two groups of heifers (50 percent Red Angus, 25 percent Charolais, and 25 percent Tarentaise) in two lifetime treatment groups. The control group was fed according to industry guidelines. The restricted group was fed  80% of the amount of feed consumed by animals in the control group (on a body weight basis) for 140 days, ending when they were a year old. From breeding through late fall, the heifers were managed as one group,

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