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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Divergent breeding values for fatness or residual feed intake in Angus cattle. 1. Pregnancy rates of heifers differed between fat lines and were affected by weight and fat

F. M. Jones B , J. M. Accioly B , K. J. Copping C , M. P. B. Deland C , J. F. Graham D I , M. L. Hebart E , R. M. Herd F , M. Laurence G , S. J. Lee E , E. J. Speijers H J and W. S. Pitchford E K
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies.

B Department of Agriculture and Food, Bunbury, WA 6230, Australia.

C South Australian Research and Development Institute, Struan Agricultural Centre, Naracoorte, SA 5271, Australia.

D Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Hamilton, Vic. 3300, Australia.

E School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy Campus, SA 5371, Australia.

F NSW Department of Primary Industries, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

G College of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6250, Australia.

H Department of Agriculture and Food, South Perth, 6151 WA, Australia.

I Present address: 102 Kent Road, Hamilton, Vic. 3300, Australia.

J Present address: 11A Swanbourne Street, Fremantle, WA 6160, Australia.

K Corresponding author. Email: wayne.pitchford@adelaide.edu.au

Animal Production Science 58(1) 33-42 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN14583
Submitted: 24 December 2013  Accepted: 13 November 2014   Published: 4 September 2017

Abstract

The pregnancy rate of heifers affects the efficiency and profitability of beef herds. Heifers extreme in rib fatness (Fat) or post-weaning residual feed intake (RFI) estimated breeding values (EBVs) were evaluated for their pregnancy rates at two locations in the southern agricultural regions of Australia (Struan and Vasse) as part of the Beef Cooperative Research Centre Maternal Productivity Project. Heifers divergent in Fat (High-Fat and Low-Fat) had differences in fat depth pre-joining at the 12/13th rib (4.4 mm vs 3.5 mm) and P8 rump site (6.1 mm vs 4.8 mm). This was associated with significant differences in pregnancy rates over a 9-week joining period (91.5% vs 83.0%) and an even larger difference when calculated over a 6-week joining period (77.3% vs 65.0%). Heifers divergent in RFI (Vasse only) also differed in rib fat (7.6 mm vs 6.4 mm) and P8 fat (11.0 vs 9.2 mm), but not significantly in pregnancy rates between the two RFI (High-RFI and Low-RFI) genotypes following a 9-week (92.4% vs 88.5%) or 6-week (81.2% vs 73.7%) joining period. The phenotypic analysis of the Fat and RFI heifers together indicated that weight and fat depth were the largest contributing factors to variation in pregnancy rates, and age and pre-joining weight gain were not significant. These phenotypic characteristics indicated that producers can manage heifers to particular weight and fat combinations to improve heifer conception rates. Associations of BREEDPLAN EBVs with heifer fertility showed that a shorter days-to-calving EBV had the biggest impact (P < 0.001) on heifer pregnancy rates and rib fat and scrotal size EBVs were close to significant (P < 0.10).

Additional keywords: days to calving, EBV, fat depth, joining period.


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