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Published December 4, 2014

Effect of weaning date (normal vs. late) on performance of young
and mature beef cows and their progeny in a fall calving system
in the Southern Great Plains1
M. D. Hudson,2 J. P. Banta,3 D. S. Buchanan,4 and D. L. Lalman5
Department of Animal Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater 74078

ABSTRACT: Data from 158 predominantly Angus
fall-calving beef cows were used in 4 consecutive years
to determine the effects of weaning date and cow age
class on cow and calf performance. Treatments were arranged in a 2 × 2 factorial with 2 weaning dates and 2
age classes (young cows ≤3 yr and mature cows ≥4 yr).
Weaning dates were 1) normal weaning in mid-April
at 210 d of age (NW) and 2) late weaning in mid-July
at 300 d of age (LW). Mature cows were heavier (P <
0.01) than young cows throughout the trial, although
BCS was similar (P ≥ 0.10) among cow age classes.
Cow BW (P = 0.58) and BCS (P = 0.40) were similar
among weaning treatments at NW; however, at the beginning of the calving season, NW cows were heavier
(585 vs. 562 kg; P = 0.02) and had greater BCS (6.57
vs. 5.95; P < 0.0001) than LW cows. Postpartum BW
and BCS losses were greater (P < 0.0001) for NW cows,
resulting in similar BW (P = 0.56) and BCS (P =
0.07) at the beginning of the breeding season and until
April. Progeny of NW cows were 2.4 kg heavier (P <
0.01) at birth and grew faster before the April wean-

ing date, resulting in increased BW (8 kg; P < 0.05)
at the time of normal weaning. This increase in BW
gain may be partially explained by the increased milk
production of NW cows (0.59 kg/d as measured in February; P < 0.05). Although NW calves had increased
BW in April, LW calves were heavier in July because
of increased ADG during the weaning interval (1.13
vs. 0.8 kg; P < 0.0001). A cow age class × weaning
date interaction (P = 0.007) was detected for pregnancy rate. Pregnancy rates were greater (P < 0.10) for
LW-mature cows (96.7%) and NW-young cows (98.4%)
than for LW-young cows (89.3%). However, pregnancy
rate of NW-mature cows (90.2%) did not differ (P =
0.12) from that of LW-mature or LW-young cows, but
was less than that of NW-young cows. These findings
indicate that producers may benefit from matching
weaning date to cow age class. It appears more advantageous to delay weaning of calves born to dams 4 yr or
older while maintaining NW for dams 3 yr or younger
at the time of calving. Late weaning had no detrimental
effects on the performance of mature cows.

Key words: beef cow, fall calving, performance, weaning management
©2010 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION
Traditional weaning in fall calving systems occurs
in mid-April, when calves are approximately 210 d of
age. However, because of the availability of high-qual-

1
Approved for publication by the director of the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station (Stillwater). This research was supported under project H-2464.
2
Current address: 900 W. P. Garrigus Building, Lexington, KY
40506.
3
Current address: 1710 FM 3053 N., Overton, TX 75684.
4
Current address: PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050.
5
Corresponding author: david.lalman@okstate.edu
Received February 8, 2009.
Accepted December 2, 2009.

J. Anim. Sci. 2010. 88:1577–1587
doi:10.2527/jas.2009-1871

ity forage during the spring and early summer in the
Southern Great Plains, a growing trend designed to
increase weaning BW is to extend lactation through
mid-July until calves are approximately 300 d of age.
This practice would ostensibly have a positive influence
on enterprise profitability primarily because of heavier
weaning BW of older calves. However, for fall-calving
cows (average BW of 533 kg), extending lactation increases maintenance energy requirements by 153.9 Mcal
and requires an additional 100.5 Mcal of energy for
lactation during mo 8, 9, and 10 postpartum compared
with normally weaned cows. It is well documented that
cow BCS at calving is an important factor affecting
the length of the postpartum interval and pregnancy
rates (Wiltbank et al., 1964; Selk et al., 1988). The
interval to first estrus is shorter for spring-calving cows

1577

and were vaccinated according to the same herd health protocol. Before initiating the study in yr 1. Body condition scores (1 = emaciated. cows were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 weaning date treatments: 1) normal weaning in mid-April at approximately 210 d of age (NW) and (2) late weaning in mid-July at approximately 300 d of age (LW). Cow BW and BCS were recorded at the beginning (late November) and end (late January) of the breeding season and at both weaning dates. either as rollovers from a springcalving herd or as fall-born 2-yr-old replacements. yr 3 = April 2006 to April 2007) and 1 partial year (yr 4 = April 2007 to July 2007) using a total of 158 different predominantly Angus fall-calving beef cows. after a 16-h shrink. it has been demonstrated that prebreeding BW and body condition losses of fall-calving cows may depress reproductive performance. increasing energy requirements during the summer may result in thinner conditioned cows at the beginning of the calving season.22 ha/calf. Cows were evaluated twice daily for estrous detection for the first 7 d of the breeding season. Exp. At this time. New pregnant cows were added to the study each spring. as BCS at parturition increases (Richards et al. 60. All cows grazed pasture adjacent to the drylot. 120.. Houghton et al. Late-weaned cows and their calves as well as NW cows grazed pasture adjacent to the drylot. and young cows were artificially inseminated with semen from Angus bulls. where LW calves were maintained for 10 d postweaning. Wagner et al. Additionally. New York.. 1988) were determined by 2 trained. the BW and sex of each calf were determined and bull calves were castrated. all cows and calves were managed similarly. 9 = obese. During the weaning period. Within 24 h of birth. A 2 × 2 factorial treatment arrangement was used with 2 weaning dates and 2 age classes at the time of calving (young cows ≤3 yr old and mature cows ≥4 yr old). Postweaning management was the same as for NW calves. Prior research conducted to evaluate the effect of weaning date on fall-calving cows in this region has evaluated early weaning at 6 to 10 wk of age (Purvis and Lusby. approximately 16 km west of Stillwater. 3. At this time. where calves were maintained for 10 d postweaning. The total numbers of cows and calves available for April and July data collection were 53. 2. Management and Weighing Procedures Throughout the experiment. Calf BW was recorded for both treatments on d 10 and 21. the objective of this study was to elucidate the effects of late weaning compared with normal weaning on the performance of fall-calving beef cows and their progeny. 1 This study was conducted at the Range Cow Research Center. These findings indicate that reproductive performance may be negatively affected by late weaning. NW calves were separated from their dams and weaned using a fenceline weaning system (Price et al. Cow BW and BCS were recorded before the beginning of the calving season (late August) and every 2 wk throughout the calving season (only those cows that had calved in the prior period. On d 11.. 101.. respectively. for a total of 317 observations. Mature cows were artificially inseminated with semen from either Angus or Charolais bulls. LW calves were separated from their dams and weaned using the same fenceline weaning system as described for NW cows and calves. 1990). Added cows were managed with the experimental herd for 10 mo and were equally and randomly assigned to either NW or LW before the April weaning date. cow BW and BCS measurements were recorded after a 16-h withdrawal from feed and water. and 103 for yr 1. 1986). especially if forage quality or quantity is negatively affected by drought or other factors. 1986. cow BW and BCS and calf BW were recorded for both treatments. and 150 d of age. Before this experiment was initiated. calves received a 20% CP supplement daily at a rate of 1. Cows were artificially inseminated 12 h after detection of standing estrous. yr 2 and 3 only) to determine postcalving BW and BCS. One week after cessation of AI. In mid-April (d = 0). Therefore. 2003). North Range Unit. despite ample energy reserves at calving (Rakestraw et al. and 4. NW calves were placed on native grass pasture at a stocking rate of approximately 1. In mid-July (d 84). independent evaluators. 3 Angus bulls were placed with all cows for 35 d to constitute a 63-d breeding season. cow BW and BCS and calf BW were recorded. 1996). Pregnancy was determined via palpation per rectum approximately 80 d after bulls were . received the same rate of supplementation. Throughout the experiment. yr 2 = April 2005 to April 2006.81 kg/ calf and were given ad libitum access to bermudagrass hay and water. NY) and twice-daily estrous detection was continued for 2 wk. Nonshrunk calf BW was subsequently determined at approximately 70... cows and calves had been managed together as a single contemporary group. Therefore. Cows not inseminated during this time were treated with 5 mg/mL of PG (Pfizer Inc. MATERIALS AND METHODS These studies were conducted in accordance with an approved Oklahoma State University Animal Care and Use Committee protocol. OK. Cows were retained in the herd each year (excluding open cows or cows with serious illness) and remained in the same weaning group as initially assigned. The experiment was conducted over 3 successive years (yr 1 = April 2004 to April 2005. The only exception was calf management during the 84 d between weaning dates.1578 Hudson et al. They grazed the same pastures.

solids-not-fat. to ensure complete emptying of each quarter. and year was treated as a random effect. Cows were randomly selected from each weaning treatment based on calving date. This nursing was to empty the udder and ensure an equal status before measuring production. On d 1 at 1600 h. 2005. cows were administered 40 USP units of oxytocin intramuscularly and were milked with a portable milking machine. Percentage changes in cow BW and cow BCS were calculated using raw treatment means. To analyze milk composition. for which the model included weaning date. On d 1 at 0800 h. The sum of the 3 BW differences was considered 24-h milk production. BCS. all cows included for milk production were mature cows. 2) only calves weaned from cows having previously weaned a calf on the study. cows and calves were corralled and separated. numbers of observations. and birth BW for preweaning and weaning data presented will not be consistent throughout the results tables. Cary. and reproductive performance included weaning date. with tendencies identified when the significance was between 0. respectively. Therefore. calves were allowed to nurse until satiety and were then separated from their dams. Milk Production In November (yr 2 only. with only 1 exception. calf sex. calves were separated from their dams and individually reweighed. 2005. Inc. 2006. year was considered a random effect. cow was considered the experimental unit (Adams et al. they were reunited with their dams and allowed to nurse to satiety. After all calves were weighed individually. The total milk collected was weighed and thoroughly mixed. 2005. The following morning at 0700 h. 1579 Statistical Analyses Because our primary interest was in the physiological status of the cows regarding age and weaning date and because the age and weaning date treatments were independently applied to each cow. KS) for analysis of butterfat. This process was then repeated for the second weaning treatment. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure (SAS Inst. For analysis of calf preweaning performance (only calves born to dams having weaned a calf on the study).. and 2006 that were weaned in 2004. Milk Composition In yr 3. At 40 d (±5. calves were separated from cows at 1500 h. Cows were continually allowed ad libitum access to hay and water throughout the collection period. with year as a random effect.05 and 0. cow age class. milk production was estimated using the weighsuckle-weigh method (Banta et al. Results were considered significant if P < 0. breed of sire. A 10-mL subsample was immediately collected and preserved using 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1. and the interaction of weaning date × cow age class as fixed effects. calf sex. The difference in final calf BW and initial calf BW was considered milk consumption. calving dates. The model for cow BW.05. Results for cow BW and BCS include data collected from April 2004 to July 2007.10. the model included weaning date as a fixed effect and period milked as a random effect. Calf weaning and postweaning performance was analyzed in 2 ways: 1) all calves weaned on the study. total n = 89).3-diol and was later shipped to the Heart of America Dairy Herd Improvement Association laboratory (Manhattan. the model included weaning date.80) and was therefore not included as a covariate in the statistical model. the model for milk production included only weaning date as a fixed effect and year as a random effect. 2000). Once the last calf finished nursing. 2006. breed of sire.. 2004. Least squares means are reported in the text and in all tables. and somatic cell count. cow age class. lactose. a total of 40 cows were used to determine the effects of weaning date on milk production and composition. treatments were not . a treatment was selected randomly to be evaluated first (nursing order of treatments was maintained for both subsequent measurements). total n = 87). breed of sire. and the interaction of weaning date × cow age class as fixed effects. for which the model included weaning date. whereas calves were maintained in dry pens. cow age class.6 d) postpartum. The number of days postpartum for selected cows did not differ (P > 0. and 2007. Because. Twenty cows from each weaning treatment were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 collection periods based on calving date. calves were allowed to nurse to satiety and were then separated from their dams. Results for calf weaning and postweaning performance included the weaning and postweaning BW for calves born in 2003. and the interaction of weaning date × cow age class as fixed effects. and 2006 to cows having previously weaned a calf on the experiment. Again. Results for calf preweaning performance include only data collected from calves born in 2004. cow age class.. All open cows remained on the study until the July weaning date and were then removed from the study. 2006). At 2300 h. and early April (yr 1 through 3.Effects of time of weaning on cows and calves removed from the breeding pastures. Cows received ad libitum access to hay and water. This procedure was repeated at 2400 h and at 0800 h on d 2. year was included in the model as a random effect variable. February (yr 1 thru 3. protein. and 2007 calving dates. All interactions and covariates remained in the model regardless of significance. calf sex. Calving date was analyzed for each treatment using fall 2005. because the first calving season (2004) was not affected by weaning date. After flow ceased. calf birth date and calf BW at birth were included as covariates. On d 0 at 1600 h. and the interaction of weaning date × cow age class as fixed effects. milk urea nitrogen. NC). each teat was hand-stripped and the contents were added to the milk from the machine milking. n = 22).

compared with LW cows. 2005. and fecal grab samples were collected twice daily at 0800 and 1600 h to predict fecal output from acid detergent insoluble ash concentration. using an Ankom 200 Fiber Analyzer.02) and having 0. digested DMI (DMI kg/100 kg of BW × DM digestibility) and digested OM intake were calculated for each cow. MI). yet the proportional change was greater (P < 0.1% ADF. (1985). 6. NY.03) was detected for cow BW in July and for absolute cow BW change from April to July. Prepartum Cow BW and BCS. Hay intake was measured from d 9 to 15.1 m). young cows gained proportionally more BW than mature cows (P = 0.82). Each 16-d period consisted of 9 d of adaptation to the pens and hay feeders and 7 d of data collection.7 to 7. ADF.0001. The absolute change in BCS for mature and young cows did not differ (P = 0. Swedesboro. Within each period. and overall means in the text represent the simple average of the least squares means. date of conception (based on the subsequent calving date). 75. Results were considered significant if P < 0. Subsamples of supplement. Cows were fed the same type of hay (bermudagrass. Table 1) and BCS (P = 0.. During the 84-d period between weaning dates. cluded weaning date as a fixed effect and period as a random effect.58. Normally weaned cows maintained their advantage in BW and BCS. NDF. During the interval between weaning dates. Therefore. Additionally. 6 cows from each weaning date treatment were randomly selected and assigned to 1 of 12 outdoor pens (3. Differences in predicted forage intake and quality and other modeling parameters may explain some of the variation in the expected and observed performance. located approximately 16 km west of Stillwater. 1991). Cow BW (P = 0. Two consecutive 16-d periods were used. which indicated that spring-weaned cows grazing range grass in early summer would be expected to gain 98 kg more than summer-weaned cows. OM. Crude protein was determined using a Leco NS-2000 Nitrogen Analyzer (Leco Corporation. 1 were used to determine the effects of weaning date on hay intake and digestion. NJ) to pass a 1-mm screen before analysis. and orts were dried at 50°C for 48 h. resulting in greater body energy reserves for NW cows compared with LW cows in July (Table 2). In addition. (Fairport. 2005.91 kg/d) as their herd mates. NW cows gained proportionally more BW than LW cows (P < 0. and CP digestibility values. with tendencies identified when the significance was between 0. Interval to pregnancy (calculated as the number of days from calving to conception based on the subsequent calving date). both in terms of absolute BW gain and proportional BW gain. 20% CP. Exp.. OM basis) and received the same supplement source (range cube. hay. and 2007 breeding seasons.0 irrespective of assignment to April or June weaning. This is in contrast to the study by Coffey et al. 2 Exp. effects of cow age were not evaluated. with Statistical Analysis Intake and digestibility measurements were analyzed using the MIXED procedures of SAS. in which cows gained more BW during the summer months when calves were weaned at 210 d compared with cows whose calves were weaned at 285 d. during early lactation (average days postpartum = 41 ± 6). the present results are not as dramatic as predicted by NRC (1996) calculations. Least squares means are reported in all tables.05. main effects for cow BW and BCS are reported and the noted interaction is described in detail below.62 more units of body condition (P < 0. Joseph. 2006. Neutral detergent fiber and ADF contents were determined sequentially using the batch-culture procedures outlined by Ankom Technology Corp. subsamples were composited by cow within period.05 and 0. which reported that fall-calving cows calved at a BCS of 6. Vogel et al. imposed until after the previous breeding season. In yr 3. (2005).1580 Hudson et al. When BW gain from April to July was expressed as a percentage of April BW. 36. Dry samples were ground in a Wiley mill (Model-4.7 × 9. Thomas Scientific. Acid detergent insoluble ash was determined as the residue after complete combustion of the ADF residue at 550°C for 8 h (Van Soest et al. These findings are similar to those reported by Hancock et al. 24 cows from Exp. and 2006 breeding seasons and subsequent calving seasons. Number of days postpartum was evaluated and did not differ (P > 0. Table 1). North Range Unit.1% NDF. The model in- RESULTS AND DISCUSSION . and acid detergent insoluble ash. No other significant interactions were detected for cow BW or BCS at any of the other times measured. Composite samples were then analyzed for DM. Although differences in the proportional BW and BCS changes are subtle.03. being 23 kg heavier (P = 0.0001) when measured in late August before the onset of the calving season.01) for mature cows (Table 2).30) and was therefore not included in the model. Days from calving to first AI and pregnancy rate analyses were based on data from the fall 2004. Table 1).98% CP. they suggest a possible difference in BW gain distribution. DM basis) at the same rate (0. NW cows gained more body condition.10. Apparent DM. predetermined as 5 d) were calculated using data from the fall 2004.40. After grinding. CP. 1999). as well as NDF and ADF digestibility values. and AI conception rate (deviation from the AI date threshold. were calculated for each cow. A significant weaning date × cow age class interaction (P = 0. 1 This experiment was also conducted at the Range Cow Research Center. Table 2) did not differ between weaning treatments in April. St.

84 +45. 5 Yr 2 and 3 only.2 −0.7 vs.16 2.08 0.8 5.78 0.1 5.00 −16.72 445 559 585 548 536 508 113.15 0.1 0. Previous research with dairy cows has shown that cows which accumulate greater fat reserves prepartum exhibit greater postpartum fat depot mobilization (Davenport and Rakes.0001) than in LW-mature and LW-young cows.01 0.5 423 519 559 522 511 488 +97 +23.8 9.0001 0. April to July % Change. Effect of weaning date and cow age class on BW (kg) of fall-calving cows (Exp.15 −18.02 0.. 2002).0001 <0.4 6.2 0. who observed a body Table 2. Effect of weaning date and cow age class on BCS of fall-calving cows1 (Exp.8 −1.0001 <0.9 +19. precalving to prebreeding % Change.03. The observed differences in BW gain resulted in NW cows of both age classes being heavier (P < 0.51) between NW-young (+114.12 0.12 0.7 −1.2 10.24 0.7 0.95 4.14 0.0001 <0.77 0. 1982.0 5.77 0.1 5.03 0. and ≤3 yr (young).21 3.0 0.99 +30. although treatments were managed the same nutritionally.44 +41.46 −6.20 0. Postpartum Cow BW and BCS. 4 Most conservative SEM.9 6.1 +1.5 5. data not shown).3 9.13 471 572 588 559 555 529 +100 +21.54 −8. (2005). Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW) and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW).2 5.7% BW loss and a 16% condition loss for LW cows (Table 1 and 2).0001 <0. kg/d % BW change. precalving to prebreeding 1 Cow age class2 P-value3 n LW NW SEM4 Mature Young SEM4 Weaning treatment Cow age 316 310 196 111 168 120 309 309 168 168 4.4 5.1 4.1581 Effects of time of weaning on cows and calves 1 Table 1. NW cows lost 9% of precalving BW and 22% of precalving body condition. 3 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment and cow age.39 0. Postpartum condition loss in the present study is greater than that reported by Coffey et al. rate of BW and BCS loss differed dramatically (P < 0. 4 Most conservative SEM. + 80 kg).8 6.0001 <0. April to July % Change. and ≤3 yr (young). April to July Change.15 1.31 −20. As expected.1 +1.23 0.0 5.2 0.18 9.01 <0. 3 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment and cow age.0 −1. Cow BW gain did not differ (P = 0.6 7. precalving to prebreeding Rate of loss.6 5.0001 <0.39 +34.08 0.56 0. Throughout the postpartum period.01 0.21 3. 2 the likelihood that more energy was directed to skeletal and muscle growth for young cows.0001 <0.58 <0.82 0. Regarding cow BW in July and absolute cow BW change from April to July.03) BW than LW-young cows during this period (+ 87.20 0.6 13.39 0. 1) Weaning treatment2 Item April July Precalving Postcalving5 Prebreeding Postbreeding Change. BW gain for both age classes was greater in NW cows (P < 0.6 ± 10.38 −5. 2 .4 6. Busato et al.0 −55.5 5.15 0. 1975.0001 0.6 5.2 6.1 −1.0001 0.10 0. a significant interaction was observed (P = 0.07 0. however.8 0.5 −0.07 0.40 0.0001.0001 <0.8 16..7 6.0001 <0.0001 <0.4 5.4 9.9 kg) cows for this period.46 −22. Cow age class: ≥4 yr (mature). precalving to prebreeding. 1969.15 0.2 0. Garnsworthy and Topps.0001) than LWmature and LW-young cows at the July weaning date.1 10. During the approximately 90 d from the onset of the calving season to the beginning of the breeding season.08 Data were collected from April 2004 to July 2007.07 0.0001 <0.62 −9.4 −48.93 <0. Cow age class: ≥4 yr (mature).0001 <0.66 <0.1 +1.5 5.0 4. Lodge et al.03 19.8 kg) and NW-mature (+112.7 kg more (P = 0. LW-mature cows gained 7.5 6. precalving to prebreeding Cow age class2 1 Data were collected from April 2004 to July 2007.5 15.08 0. 5 Yr 2 and 3 only. Tables 1 and 2).3 −0.2 0.03 19.13 0. whereas more energy was directed to body reserves in older cows. 1) Weaning treatment2 P-value3 n LW NW SEM4 Mature Young SEM4 Weaning treatment Cow age 317 310 196 110 168 120 310 310 168 168 168 448 532 562 533 531 509 83. compared with a 5.4 −0.0 5.8 −41.2 ± 10.4 +26.08 0. April to July BW change. Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW) and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW).04 Item April July Precalving Postcalving5 Prebreeding Postbreeding Change.19 0.0001 0.0001 0.3 5.40 <0.15 0.2 6.1 +0.9 13.1 −34.32 0.

6 (34) 86. 1996).01 0. the number in parentheses is cows exposed. (1969). As a result of the increased postpartum BW and BCS losses by NW cows in the present study.0 (39) 85. Table 3.41 0. When evaluating the literature regarding postpartum BW and BCS loss and BCS at the beginning of the breeding season. growing females.01). however.5 d Date of conception. young cows lost a greater (P = 0. however.4% of body condition.04) percentage of BW (Table 1).07 (27) 6.4a (65) 78.57 −22. 3 Most conservative SEM.5) without suppressing pregnancy rates compared with cows losing only 14.8% of precalving body condition before the breeding season.. but is also advantageous from a cow management standpoint because it prevents overconditioning during the late gestation period. percentage serviced by AI.6 (24) 72. body condition loss (either as an absolute value or expressed as a percentage) tended (P = 0. cow prebreeding BW did not differ between weaning treatments (P = 0.84 0.05) pregnancy rates compared with LW-young cows. (1986) conducted a 3-yr study to determine the effects of 3 postpartum energy regimens on reproductive performance of fallcalving cows.65 units (average 9% of precalving BCS) for both spring. along with those presented by Wiltbank et al.03 −17.08) to be greater for young cows than for mature cows (Table 2). A putative hypothesis that fatter cows experience a longer anestrous period if BW and BCS losses are not controlled is supported in that ovulation may be in part .4 (59) 2. Julian date Cows serviced by AI. 1981). Body condition score tended to be greater for NW cows (P = 0.0 (60) 1.8 units) of body condition (entering the breeding season at a BCS of 5. A significant weaning date × cow age class interaction (overall P = 0. Further. The absolute rate of BW loss postpartum did not differ between cow age classes. in which fall-calving beef cows lost 20.3c (66) 75. or AI conception rate. However. Rakestraw et al. 2 Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW) and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW).3 (33) 86.3 (41) 348.8 3. 1 condition loss of 0. Late-weaned mature cows exhibited greater (P < 0.6 (41) 86. day from calving to the beginning of the breeding season or first AI.7 0. Julian date Pregnant. but did not differ from NW-mature or NW-young cows.87 −14. The reduced pregnancy rates observed for NW-mature cows in this study are consistent with those of other studies that reported an increase in the duration of postpartum anestrous associated with an increase in mobilization of body fat (Butler et al. Effect of weaning date and cow age class on reproductive performance of beef cows in a fall calving system1 Treatment combination2 Item LW-mature LW-young NW-mature NW-young SEM3 P-value4 Calving date.57 −21.7 2.05 (41) 6. Normally weaned young cows had a greater (P < 0. in contrast. For the percentage pregnant. and ≤3 yr (young).1 0. Purvis and Lusby (1996) reported a drastic BW loss of 18. precalving Postpartum BCS loss. % Calving to first AI. suggest that BCS both at calving and at breeding are not totally reliable predictors of reproductive performance if cattle experience severe BW and body condition losses postpartum.92 0. means without a common superscript letter differ (P < 0. Neither weaning date nor cow age class resulted in differences (P = 0.6 (46) 346. % 263 (62) 96.9 (44) 65.4% of precalving BW and 16. This longer interval may be due to increased body energy reserves causing decreased DMI during early lactation. (1962) and Dunn et al.7ab (59) 77. d change BCS.5 259 (63) 90. d Interval to pregnancy. 5 Days from calving to conception.4 262 (70) 98.5 (64) 2.1 (27) 345.92 0.9 2.36 to 0. 4 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment-cow age combination.8 3. Similarly.2 (23) 349.5 (63) 2.7 6.and summer-weaned beef cows. (2006).92) in calving date. % Calving interval.1582 Hudson et al. when expressed as a percentage of BW at precalving.16 2. for mature cows.007) was detected for pregnancy rate (Table 3).56). no differences were observed for cow BW or BCS at the end of the breeding season.6 3. indicating that factors other than absolute BW or rate of loss affect reproduction.2bc (59) 84. which results in a longer interval to maximum negative energy balance (EB) postpartum (NRC. Using fall-calving cows.7 264 (71) 89.7% (1.0 (47) 55.5 3. despite adequate energy reserves at calving. Cow age class: ≥4 yr (mature).24 (46) 6. our findings are commensurate with the findings of Renquist et al. Numbers in parentheses indicate number of observations per cell.62 <0.3% of precalving BW and 24. These results indicate that.36 0. no consensus is evident regarding the amount of loss permitted without suppressing reproductive performance.07). LW det- rimentally affects reproductive performance for young. Their conclusions suggest that significant BW and body condition losses postpartum could lead to detrimental reproductive performance.81 0. date of conception. Cow Reproductive Performance. LW not only appears to be a viable practice for increasing calf weaning BW.05) pregnancy rate compared with LW-young cows and NW-mature cows.5 (27) 59. These data.61 a–c Within a row.13 (23) 5.

NW cows produced 0. and uterus. Addition- . 1984. In yr 3. 1990).6 kg more milk than LW cows. However..64 0. kg   April milk yield. Neville.31 0. 1995.62 0.62 7.. Milk Production and Composition. resulting in heavier BW for LW calves at the July weaning date (P = 0. Milk production (Table 4) did not differ between treatments in November (mean of 53 d postpartum) or in April (mean of 200 d postpartum). with no apparent differences in dystocia. At the April weaning date. during the cumulative 84 d between weaning dates.68 2. However. protein. 1994. or milk urea nitrogen (P = 0.56 2.41 0.96 8. 2007) indicate that negative EB postpartum can affect the oocyte. 1962. The effects of BCS at calving and rate of body condition loss postpartum on cow and calf performance warrant further study. however. Beal et al. were heavier (P = 0. DeRouen et al.91 6. and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW). however. Therefore. Further. 2 Most conservative SEM. %    Lactose. when evaluated after weaning (Table 6). thus depressing reproductive performance. 1967. 1953. calves born to NW dams having previously weaned a calf on the study remained heavier than calves born to LW dams for the first 10 d after the April weaning date.002). 2003). when evaluated in February (mean of 156 d postpartum). kg   February milk yield.01) at the end of the breeding season in February and in April (P < 0. Spitzer et al..1583 Effects of time of weaning on cows and calves Table 4.69 3. leading to the greater subsequent calf growth observed in the present study. 103 cells/mL n LW NW SEM2 P-value3 22 89 87 6. controlled by EB (Wright et al.09 to 0.21 40 7. Effect of weaning date on beef cow milk production and composition in a fall calving system (Exp. calf BW did not differ. Drewry et al. %    Protein. calves from NW dams were 8 kg heavier (P = 0. Christian et al. Llewellyn et al. 1) Weaning treatment1 Item Weigh-suckle-weigh   November milk yield.10 0.81 7. These results indicate that prior weaning date influences ensuing preweaning calf BW gain by its effect on cow BW and BCS at calving. No weaning date × cow age class interactions were observed for any calf preweaning measurement (P = 0. 1992) and that fatter cows remain in negative EB for a longer duration postpartum. 1965.54 185 0. It was shown in the previous section that time of previous weaning affects calf preweaning and weaning BW. NW cows gave more milk when evaluated in February compared with LW cows.41 to 0. However. However.77).85 4.4 kg heavier (P = 0. calves from NW dams were 2.05 0. 1941..03 305 3.55 (Knapp and Black. calves from LW dams gained more BW than calves from NW dams (P < 0.53 3. Nevertheless.06 0. as previously noted. Rutledge et al. recent studies (Leroy et al. %    Milk urea nitrogen.03) than LW calves. Despite greater BW for NW progeny in April. %    Solids-not-fat.55 0. Cow age class affected neither calf birth date nor birth BW (Table 5).47 0. In December (mean calf age of 75 d). 1962. Melton et al.07 6. Birth date did not differ between weaning treatments (Table 5). at approximately 0. when cows are in moderate body condition at the time of parturition (Doornbos et al.00 8. mg/dL    Somatic cell count. as indicated by BCS. Progeny of mature cows.51 0.. 3 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment.. Ciccioli et al..0001).08 1 Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW).72 3. 1971). Renquist et al.41 756 0.83 40 40 40 40 40 40 3.58 0. the ovary. It appears that greater cow BW and BCS at calving led to increased calf preweaning BW gain..91 5. milk composition was evaluated and no differences were detected for butterfat..74 0.29 3. (2006) reported no effect of postpartum change in BCS on pregnancy rate when BCS at breeding was included in the statistical model.. The correlation between calf BW gain and cow milk production is intermediate. solids-not-fat. Sixty to 66% of the variation in calf weaning BW can be directly attributed to milk yield of the dam (Neville.13 4.59 0. kg   Milk composition    Butterfat. in early February (mean calf age of 127 d). in contrast to the present study.54 0. lactose. Calf Preweaning Performance..05 0..17 0. calves from NW dams were 7 kg heavier than calves from LW dams (P = 0. 1959. kg Machine milking   Milk yield. it is conceivable that increased BW and BCS at calving led to increased milk production (and possibly altered milk composition). This is in contrast to previous reports that milk production or preweaning and 205-d adjusted weaning BW of calves are not influenced by cow body energy reserves.008) at birth. Calf Weaning and Postweaning Performance.01).04). 2006. Gifford.62).

7 107 138 185 3. Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW) and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW).98 185 204 213 269 289 1.008 0.1 11.1 260 35. Body composition is believed to affect feed intake (NRC.003 0. It is important to note that 2-yr-old cows were not included in this analysis because they would not have weaned a calf the previous year and therefore would not have previously experienced the weaning treatments.461 0.03 0. however.96 0.0001) energy reserves than LW cows when intake and digestibility were measured (Table 8).04 0. kg February BW.13 1. 4 Most conservative SEM. A cow with a Table 6. kg April BW.85 0. no significant influence of weaning date was observed for any of the intake or digestibility measurements in the present study (Table 8).024 Analysis included data from calves born to dams having a calf on the study. kg/d d 0 to 94 ADG.003) in mature cows than in young cows when considering only cows that had previously weaned a calf on the trial (Table 6).0001 0.059 <0. 1996).26 0.7% in cattle fed a concentrate diet during the finishing period. Effect of prior weaning date of the dam and cow age class on calf weaning and postweaning performance in a fall calving system1 (Exp.36 1. kg (d 0) d 10 BW.11 0.0 4. calf BW was greater (P = 0.9 9.6 0. 4 Most conservative SEM.8 0.2 10.6 4.92 8.024 0. Therefore.6 109 148 199 263 34.191 0.12 196 216 220 266 284 1. kg Cow age class2 P-value3 n LW NW SEM4 Mature Young SEM4 Weaning treatment Cow age 154 154 121 157 158 262 34.854 0. There appears to be no cumulative effect because the magnitude of calf BW difference was similar for all calves weaned on the trial (Table 7) compared with those calves born to cows previously on trial (Table 6). P = 0. Exp.88 1. Cow age class: ≥4 yr (mature). data not shown).34 0.13.983 0.8 13.029 0.0 107 141 188 262 36.0 8. because new cows and their calves (with no prior influence of treatment) were added to the study each spring.20 199 218 227 279 293 1.94 1. In April.66 kg. with greater body fat resulting in depressed intake per unit of BW. Similarly. 3 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment and cow age. Julian date Birth BW. kg (d 84) d 94 BW.03 0. ally.06).062 0. kg/d d 0 to 84 ADG.7 10. by d 94. there was no difference between the progeny of mature and young cows (P = 0. data collected from fall 2004 through spring 2007. 2 Normally weaned cows had more (P < 0.1 0.06 4. 3 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment and cow age.003 1 Analysis included data from calves born to dams having previously weaned a calf on the study. calf BW tended to be greater in mature cows in July (P = 0. kg d 0 to 10 ADG.51 0. and ≤3 yr (young). 0.1584 Hudson et al.6 0. kg/d d 0 to 21 ADG.25 0.01 0. data were analyzed for all calves weaned on the trial. When evaluating all calves that were weaned on the study (Table 7).35 0.94 vs.7 3. Fox et al.4 109 148 196 2. However. kg December BW.36 0.14 0. kg d 21 BW. 1) Weaning treatment2 Item Birth date.008 0.83 0.0 8.00 1.8 0.002 0. Cow age class: ≥4 yr (mature). 2 .0001 <0.3 to 31.84 1.501 0.26 0.36 0. 2 Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW) and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW).11 0. 1) Weaning treatment2 Item April BW. kg July BW.50) because of a tendency for greater ADG for progeny of young cows (0. the progeny of mature cows were heavier at weaning and throughout the 94 d after NW because of the inclusion of data from the progeny of primiparous cows.20 0.98 1. (1988) reported that a 1% increase in body fat (in the range of 21.007 0. postponing weaning until 300 d represents a direct economic advantage for producers by increasing marketable BW of calf in the first and subsequent years of this system.63 0. Effect of prior weaning date of dam and cow age class on calf preweaning performance in a fall calving system1 (Exp.5%) would decrease DMI by 2.95 3. collected from fall 2004 through summer 2007.0001 <0.5 8. and ≤3 yr (young). kg/d 1 Cow age class2 P-value3 n LW NW SEM4 Mature Young SEM4 Weaning treatment Cow age 158 158 157 157 108 158 157 157 108 188 206 221 282 298 1.8 11.5 12.57 1. Table 5.

7 2.0001 <0. 5 Yr 1 and 2 only. In yr 3. it remains possible that a depression in DMI could be a putative cause for the increased postpartum decrease in BCS observed for NW cows compared with the thinner conditioned LW cows.6 58. NW cows experienced more drastic BW and body condition losses.013 1 Analysis included data from all calves weaned from 2004 through 2007. In conclusion. kg (d 84) d 94 BW. It appears more advantageous Table 8. % Digestible DMI5 OM intake5 OM digestibility. % CP digestibility.6 57.76 1 n = 24.87 0. NW cows are both heavier and fatter than LW cows at the time of calving.85 0.4 0. Effect of weaning date on intake and apparent digestibility in lactating.10 <0. No differences in hay intake or digestibility were detected when evaluated in yr 3.50 57. It is important to note that BCS for NW cows during yr 3 (5.9 8. The detection of a significant interaction between cow age class and weaning date for pregnancy rate indicates that producers may benefit from matching weaning date to cow age class. NW cows had greater energy reserves than LW cows.80 1.19 54. Therefore.0 8.11 0. because of drought conditions.0 would be expected to have 22.78 1. % Digested OM intake5 4. and ≤3 yr (young).10 0.6% body fat (NRC. fallcalving beef cows1 (Exp.4 1.21 0.70 0. Cow age class: ≥4 yr (mature). kg d 21 BW. when intake was evaluated.0001 <0.5.0 8. It would be worthwhile to revisit the effects of cow BCS on intake and digestibility to determine if DMI is decreased in fatter cows and if so.1 1.09 0.85 0. Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW) and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW). in that particular year. despite similar management postpartum.64 2.7 57. Weaning treatments: normal weaning at 210 d of age in April (NW) and late weaning at 300 d of age in July (LW).86 0. (1988) to be subject to decreased DMI because of body condition.3 204 221 231 290 295 188 206 215 278 284 7. However.7 0.0001 0. Late weaning results in less BW and body condition gain during the late spring and early summer when compared with cows that are weaned normally at 7 mo of age.01 0.8 59.0001 <0. 3 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment and cow age.5 0.4 1.44 2. 5 Kilograms per 100 kg of BW.76 0.5 kg Cow age class2 P-value3 n LW NW SEM4 Mature Young SEM4 Weaning treatment Cow age 315 315 313 312 213 194 209 223 292 297 199 218 222 276 283 6. data not shown). resulting in similar BCS among weaning date treatments entering the breeding season.0. kg (d 0) d 10 BW.48 2.5) was less than that observed in yr 1 and 2 (5.48 2. However. BCS differences were less between treatments than in previous years.85 0.1 51.08 2.63 2. 2 BCS of 6. 1996). Thus.8 2. Effect of weaning date and cow age class on calf weaning and postweaning performance for all calves weaned in a fall calving system1 (Exp.7 6.731 <0. cow BW and BCS are decreased by delaying weaning of fall-born calves.061 0.80 0. % ADF digestibility. 4 Probability values for effects of weaning treatment.8 7. NW cows would have approximately 20.09 2.1585 Effects of time of weaning on cows and calves Table 7. 4 Most conservative SEM.50 2.0 1.9 and 6. 3 Most conservative SEM.48 56.44 5. however.17 55.76 0.0001 <0. DM basis.82 0. kg July BW.7% body fat (NRC.7 11. 2) Weaning treatment2 Item LW NW SEM3 P-value4 BCS Hay DMI4 Total DMI4 Fecal output4 DM digestibility. to what magnitude. 1) Weaning treatment2 Item April BW.7 50.8 6. 2 .004 0.8 11. 1996) and is therefore in the range considered by Fox et al. which would not be great enough to depress DMI. at BCS 5.7 3.003 0.40 0. % NDF digestibility.

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