Effects of management system on beef heifer growth and reproductive performance

Parker A. Henley, Frank A. Ireland, Igor F. Canisso, J. Lannett Edwards, Daniel W. Shike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study evaluated the effect of heifer development system on body weight (BW), body condition score (BCS), fescue toxicosis symptoms, reproductive performance, and subsequent calf growth of fall-calving beef heifers. Angus × Simmental heifers [n = 399; 240 ± 20.0 kg initial BW; age = 252 ± 20 d] were stratified by BW and BCS and assigned to 1 of 12 groups in each of the two production years. The study utilized a stratified randomized design. Pens were randomly assigned to four treatments: drylot (DL) development (fed ad-libitum diet consisting of 90% hay and 10% DDGS on a dry matter basis), grazing endophyte-infected fescue supplemented daily (2.3 kg as-fed/heifer/d; 50:50 mix of soybean hulls and DDGS; E+/S), grazing endophyte-infected fescue and supplemented from the midpoint of treatment period until breeding (4.5 kg as-fed/heifer/d; 50:50 mix of soybean hulls and DDGS; E+/LS), and grazing novel endophyte-infected fescue with no supplement (NE+/NS). Treatments ceased on d 168 [time of artificial insemination (AI)] and heifers were commingled and managed as a group through second breeding season. Heifers in DL had greatest (P ≤ 0.05) BW and BCS from d 28 until d 254. Furthermore, E+/S heifers had greater (P ≤ 0.05) BW and BCS than both E+/LS and NE+/NS from d 28 until d 168. On d 56 and 84, E+/LS heifers had lower (P ≤ 0.05) BW and BCS compared to NE+/NS, but on d 148 treatments reranked and E+/LS remained at a greater (P ≤ 0.05) BW and BCS compared to NE+/NS through the first breeding season. Drylot heifers had greatest (P ≤ 0.05) percentage cycling and percentage of mature BW at AI (66.6%) and had greater (P ≤ 0.05) AI and overall pregnancy rates compared to E+/LS and NE+/NS. The E+/S (55%) and E+/LS (53.7%) heifers were developed to a greater (P < 0.01) percentage of mature BW than NE+/NS (49.3%). A greater (P ≤ 0.02) percentage of DL and E+/S heifers were pregnant at the end of the first breeding season (89.3 and 85.1%; respectively) compared to NE+/NS (61.5%). In summary, DL heifers had the greatest BW and BCS at AI, percentage cycling, and AI pregnancy rate. However, this strategy did not result in differing overall pregnancy rates between DL, E+/S, and E+/LS and there were no differences in milk production, rebreeding reproductive performance, and calf performance between all treatments. Finally, the poorest AI and overall pregnancy rates of the NE+/NS heifers suggests this is not a viable development strategy for fall-born heifers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • drylot
  • fescue
  • heifer development
  • reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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