Prepartum dietary energy source fed to beef cows: I. Effects on pre- and postpartum cow performance

A. E. Radunz, F. L. Fluharty, M. L. Day, H. N. Zerby, S. C. Loerch

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Mature Angus-cross beef cows (n = 144) were used to determine effects of late gestation dietary energy source on pre- and postpartum cow performance in a complete randomized block design experiment. Cows were adapted to diets starting at 167 ±9 d of gestation and fed until 1 wk before expected calving date. Cows were fed 1 of 3 dietary energy sources: grass hay (HY), corn (CN), or dried distillers grains (DDGS). Cows allotted to HY were allowed ad libitum access to round-bale grass hay, and average hay disappearance was 12.4 kg/d. Limit-fed corn and DDGS diets contained 5.3 kg of whole-shelled corn or 4.1 kg of DDGS, respectively, plus 2.1 kg of hay, and 1.0 kg of supplement to meet cow nutritional needs during late gestation and to allow for an energy intake similar to HY. Every 21 d, BW, BCS, and ultrasound measurement of backfat between the 12th and 13th ribs were collected. At 210 d in gestation, jugular blood samples were collected from cows at 0, 3, 6, and 9 h postfeeding and were analyzed for glucose, insulin, NEFA, and blood urea N (BUN) concentrations. After parturition, cows were fed a common diet and managed similarly. Milk production was determined by weigh-suckle-weigh procedure on d 31, 100, and 176 postpartum. Cows fed DDGS during late gestation gained more (P = 0.04) BW than cows fed HY or CN; however, no difference in BCS change was detected (P = 0.28) among treatments. Plasma glucose concentrations were similar among treatments (P = 0.64), whereas insulin concentrations at 3 h postfeed-ing were greater (P = 0.002) for cows fed DDGS than those fed HY or CN. Plasma BUN concentrations were greater (P < 0.02) for cows fed DDGS vs. CN or HY up to 6 h postfeeding. Birth weight was greater (P < 0.001) for calves from cows fed CN and DDGS than for those fed HY, but this did not result in any differences in frequency of dystocia (P = 0.21). Prepartum energy source did not affect conception rates (P = 0.79), milk production (P > 0.51), or milk composition (P > 0.39). Maternal dietary energy source in late gestation did not affect pre- or postpartum cow performance, but did change plasma hormones and metabolites during gestation. Heavier birth weights in calves from cows fed CN or DDGS indicate the changes in maternal metabolism affected energy partitioning of nutrients to the fetus and subsequent fetal growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2717-2728
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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