Effect of Heifer Frame Score on Growth, Fertility, and Economics

  • Senturklu, S. (Dickinson Research Extension Center, North Dakota State University) ;
  • Landblom, D.G. (Dickinson Research Extension Center, North Dakota State University) ;
  • Perry, G.A. (Department of Animal Sciences, South Dakota State University) ;
  • Petry, T. (Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, North Dakota State University)
  • Received : 2013.12.19
  • Accepted : 2014.07.10
  • Published : 2015.01.01


A non-traditional forage-based protocol was employed to evaluate replacement heifer growth, fertility, and economics between small frame (SF, 3.50; n = 50) and large frame (LF, 5.56; n = 50) heifers using three increasing gain growth phases. Preceding an 85 d growing-breeding period (Phase 3; P3) the heifers were managed as a common group for Phases 1 and 2 (P1 and P2). During P1, heifers grazed common fields of unharvested corn and corn residue (total digestible nutrients [TDN] 56%) with supplemental hay. For P2, heifers grazed early spring crested wheatgrass pasture (CWG; TDN 62%) that was followed by the final P3 drylot growing and breeding period (TDN 68%). Small frame heifers were lighter at the end of P1 in May and at the start of P3 breeding in August (p = 0.0002). Percent of mature body weight (BW) at the end of P1 (209 d) was 48.7% and 46.8%, respectively, for the SF and LF heifers and the percent pubertal was lower for SF than for LF heifers (18.0% vs 40.0%; p = 0.02). At breeding initiation (P3), the percentage of mature BW was 57.8 and 57.2 and the percentage pubertal was 90.0 and 96.0 (p = 0.07) for the SF and LF heifers, respectively; a 5-fold increase for SF heifers. Breeding cycle pregnancy on days 21, 42, and 63, and total percent pregnant did not differ (p>0.10). In drylot, SF heifer dry matter intake (DMI) was 20.1% less (p = 0.001) and feed cost/d was 20.3% lower (p = 0.001), but feed cost/kg of gain did not differ between SF and LF heifers (p = 0.41). Economically important live animal measurements for muscling were measured in May and at the end of the study in October. SF heifers had greater L. dorsi muscle area per unit of BW than LF heifers (p = 0.03). Small frame heifer value was lower at weaning (p = 0.005) and the non-pregnant ending heifer value was lower for SF heifers than for the LF heifers (p = 0.005). However, the total development cost was lower for SF heifers (p = 0.001) and the net cost per pregnant heifer, after accounting for the sale of non-pregnant heifers, was lower for SF heifers (p = 0.004). These data suggest that high breeding efficiency can be attained among March-April born SF and LF virgin heifers when transitioned to a more favorable May-June calving period through the strategic use of grazed and harvested forages resulting in a lower net cost per pregnant SF heifer.


Supported by : North Dakota State Univ.


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