Beef cow prepartum supplement level and age at weaning: II. Effects of developmental programming on performance and carcass composition of steer progeny

L. M. Shoup, T. B. Wilson, D. González-Peña, F. A. Ireland, S. Rodriguez-Zas, T. L. Felix, D. W. Shike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives were to determine the interaction of prepartum dam supplement level and age at weaning on growth performance, glucose and insulin concentrations, and carcass characteristics of steers (134 steers in yr 1; 147 steers in yr 2). Mature, multiparous Angus × Simmental cows were used in a split-plot design that included 3 supplement levels (no supplement [NS], 2.16 kg·cow−1·d−1 [LS], and 8.61 kg·cow−1·d−1 [HS]) and 2 ages at weaning (78 ± 11 d of age [early weaned; EW] or 186 ± 11 d of age [normal weaned; NW]). Cows grazed endophyteinfected tall fescue/red clover pastures and were bunk fed supplement (70% dried distiller’s grains plus solubles and 30% soybean hulls) 103 ± 11 d prepartum to 2 ± 11 d postpartum. Dam prepartum supplement level did not affect (P ≥ 0.29) finishing phase growth performance or morbidity. The percentage of steers grading Average Choice or greater was increased (P = 0.04) for steers from cows fed HS compared to the percentage of steers from cows fed NS. Early weaning increased (P < 0.01) finishing phase initial BW and final BW and reduced (P < 0.01) G:F compared to normal weaning. A year × wean interaction (P = 0.04) occurred for ADG; EW resulted in reduced (P < 0.01) ADG compared to NW in yr 2. At slaughter, EW steers had greater (P < 0.01) HCW, yield grade, and back fat than NW steers. A year × wean interaction (P ≤ 0.05) occurred for quality grade distribution; in yr 2, EW steers had a greater (P < 0.01) proportion of carcasses that graded Low Choice or greater and Average Choice or greater than carcasses from NW steers. The EW steers had greater (P ≤ 0.05) occurrence of single antibiotic treatments in yr 2 and mortality due to respiratory disease than NW steers. A trend for a year × wean interaction (P ≤ 0.07) occurred for plasma insulin concentration and insulin:glucose; EW steers had numerically greater plasma insulin concentrations and insulin:glucose than NW steers in yr 1. In conclusion, these data suggest that there is no interaction between maternal level of supplement during late gestation and age at weaning on steer finishing phase performance, glucose and insulin concentrations, and carcass yield and quality characteristics. Overfeeding supplement to the dam did not affect finishing phase growth performance but did improve quality grades of steers. Early weaning increased HCW and improved carcass quality. Both dam supplement level and age at weaning are effective strategies in increasing beef quality and are independent of each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4936-4947
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2015



  • Beef cattle
  • Developmental programming
  • Early weaning
  • Marbling
  • Maternal nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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