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Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Growth of Brahman cross heifers to 2 years of age in the dry tropics

Geoffry Fordyce A C and Kerri Chandra B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dutton Park, Qld 4102, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: g.fordyce@uq.edu.au

Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN17305
Submitted: 5 October 2016  Accepted: 21 August 2017   Published online: 7 December 2017

Abstract

Growth of 1368 Brahman cross heifers from 6 year cohorts was monitored over the 2 years post-weaning in Australia’s northern forest, a low-animal-growth dry tropical environment. Heifers weighing 47–266 kg at weaning were managed in groups weighing <100 kg, 100–149 kg, 150–199 kg, and >199 kg during the post-weaning dry season. Weaner heifers were allocated to receive 300 g/day of a protein meal during the dry season or to basic nutritional management to sustain health. Heifers in three cohorts were allocated to first mating at 1 or 2 years of age, in four cohorts to vaccination against androstenedione, and in a small proportion of two cohorts to ovariectomy post-weaning. Growth was highly variable between seasons and years; average cohort liveweight by the start of 2-year-old mating was 256–319 kg. Heifer groups not receiving protein supplementation gained –16 to 21 kg (2 kg average) during 6-month dry seasons, and 49–131 kg (101 kg average) during wet seasons to reach an average of two-thirds of mature liveweight (445 kg) and 95% of mature hip height (1350 mm) by the start of mating at 2 years. Average body condition score (1–5) fluctuated by 1–2 units between seasons. Hip height gain continued, irrespective of season, commencing at ~0.60 mm/day at 6 months of age, and decelerating by ~0.00075 mm/day through to 2.5 years of age. Standard errors of predicted means across analyses were ~0.015 for average daily weight gains, 0.4 mm for average monthly height gain and 0.06 score units for average seasonal body condition score change. Post-weaning dry-season supplementation increased gains in liveweight, height and body condition score by an average of 0.1 kg/day, 0.1 mm/day and 0.5 units, respectively, during the supplementation period. Periods of poor nutrition or high nutritional demand secondary to reproduction suppressed daily gains in liveweight and hip height, at which times body condition score was also reduced. Subsequent to this, partial to full compensation occurred for all measures. Ovariectomy had negative effects on growth. Androstenedione vaccination had no effect on growth. The main conclusion is that heifer growth in Australia’s dry tropical northern forest region is highly variable between seasons and years, thus limiting significant proportions of some cohorts from reaching target weights for mating at 2 years of age, even after compensatory growth.

Additional keywords: body condition, cattle, compensatory growth, height, tropical, weight.


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