The objective of this experiment was to evaluate growth and first-lactation milk production in dairy heifers fed a high-forage (HF) or high-concentrate (HC) ration for similar levels of average daily gain (ADG) before puberty. Responses in weight and structural gains were determined on 41 Holstein heifers fed diets containing the same ingredients but formulated in different proportions to give 2 treatment rations of 75% forage or 75% concentrate. The feeding period lasted 245 d, and individual animal dry matter intake was controlled to maintain constant ADG between diets. Puberty was assessed, and first-lactation milk production was evaluated through 150 d. Average dry matter intakes required to achieve desired levels of gain were 5.96 HF and 5.32 HC kg/d (SE ± 0.12), and the associated feed efficiency (kg of ADG/kg of dry matter intake) was 0.142 HF and 0.156 HC (SE ± 0.003) over the experimental growth period. Throughout the feeding period, ADG was not affected by treatment (0.828 HF vs. 0.827 HC; SE ± 0.010 kg/d). Gains in structural measurements were not affected by treatment with the exception of paunch girth, which increased faster in HC-fed heifers. Body weight at puberty (293 HF vs. 287 HC; SE ± 7 kg) and experimental ADG prior to puberty (0.837 HF vs. 0.837 HC; SE ± 0.009 kg/d) were not different between rations. Milk and component production were numerically greater for heifers fed HC prior to puberty, although only fat-corrected milk and fat production were significant. From the results of this experiment we conclude that, compared with heifers fed HF for equal ADG, feeding dairy heifers HC before puberty did not affect most structural growth characteristics or puberty attainment and allowed equal or improved 150-d milk and component production. Controlled feeding of HC during the rearing period may allow for improved growth efficiency for dairy heifers while maintaining future productivity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology