Early weaning and postweaning nutritional management affect feedlot performance of Angus x Simmental heifers and the relationship of 12th rib fat and marbling score to feed efficiency

E. Wertz, L. L. Berger, P. M. Walker, D. B. Faulkner, F. K. McKeith, S. Rodriguez-Zas

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Early-weaned Angus x Simmental heifers were used to evaluate the effects of postweaning nutritional management on feedlot performance, carcass merit, and the relationship of intramuscular and subcutaneous fat deposition to the feed efficiency among heifers fed for a high-quality market. Sixteen heifers were weaned at 73 ± 5.5 d of age and grazed on endophyte-infected tall fescue for 18 mo before entering the feedlot (early-weaned-P). Eighty heifers from the following year's calf crop were weaned at 71 ± 5.5 d of age and allowed either ad libitum access to a 25% concentrate diet (early-weaned-25C) or limit-fed a 90% concentrate diet (early-weaned-90C) to achieve a similar ADG. Following a 119-d growing period, 16 early-weaned-90C and 16 early-weaned-25C calves were paired based on BW and growth rate and individually fed during the finishing period along with the early-weaned-P heifers. Ultrasound measurements of s.c. and i.m. fat were recorded at approximately 60-d intervals throughout the finishing period. Feed efficiency was regressed against s.c. and i.m. fat, and i.m. fat was regressed on s.c. fat. Despite a similar ADG, early-weaned-90C calves gained more efficiently (P ≤ 0.05) in the feedlot than early-weaned-25C calves. Heifers finished as yearlings tended (P ≤ 0.10) to gain faster but gained less efficiently (P ≤ 0.01) than early-weaned-90C heifers finished as calves. The rate of s.c. and i.m. fat deposition was similar between early-weaned-90C and early-weaned-25C heifer calves. The calves were grouped together for comparison to yearlings. Feed efficiency decreased quadratically (P ≤ 0.01) as s.c. fat cover increased. The rate at which feed efficiency decreased relative to increasing s.c. fat cover was similar regardless of age at feedlot entry. However, heifers finished as calves gained more efficiently (P ≤ 0.01) than yearlings at any given fat thickness. Feed efficiency decreased linearly (P ≤ 0.01) as i.m. fat increased among heifers finished as calves. Additionally, heifers finished as calves deposited i.m. fat at a faster rate relative to s.c. fat (P ≤ 0.01) than yearlings. These data suggest that heifers finished as calves produce high-quality carcasses with less s.c. fat cover while gaining more efficiently than heifers finished as yearlings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1660-1669
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2001



  • Feed Efficiency
  • Heifers
  • Ultrasound
  • Weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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