Sixty-eight Holstein heifers were used to determine the effects of accelerated growth rates by increased nutrient intake and estrogen implants on feed efficiency, structural growth, and blood parameters in heifers between 19 and 39 wk of age. At the beginning of the treatment period, the heifers were assigned to one of four treatment groups by using a randomized complete block design in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement. The treatments were standard growth rate (700 g/d), accelerated growth rate (1000 g/d), standard growth rate with an estradiol implant, and accelerated growth rate with an estradiol implant. All heifers received the same diet, but dry matter intake was adjusted weekly to achieve the target rate of gain. Accelerating heifer growth rates from 705 to 1007 g/d improved feed efficiency 5.1%, increased the rate of withers height, heart girth, and hip width growth 12, 27, and 27%, respectively, and body condition scores 0.25 points. Estradiol implants improved feed efficiency 2.4% and decreased the rate of withers height 6% and heart girth growth 3.5%. Increased nutrient intake and average daily gain depressed mean plasma growth hormone and urea nitrogen content 17 and 7%, respectively, while elevating insulin-like growth factor-1 levels by 10%. Estradiol implants increased mean plasma growth hormone content by 29% and insulin-like growth factor-1 levels by 17%, but decreased urea nitrogen content by 11%. Feeding prepubertal heifers for accelerated growth rates increased structural growth with a small increase in body condition, whereas estradiol implants improved feed efficiency and decreased the growth rate of withers height and heart girth without affecting the rate of hip width growth.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology