UNGERFELD Emilio Mauricio
- Rumen fermentation, Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias INIA, Temuco, Chile
- Animal nutrition modelling, Emissions , Gut function, Gut microbiology, Microbial fermentation, Rumen microbiology, Rumen microbiome , Ruminant nutrition
Effects of feeding treatment on growth rate and performance of primiparous Holstein dairy heifers
Optimizing growth rate of dairy heifers through nutrition to maximize reproduction and productionRecommended by Luis Tedeschi based on reviews by Emilio Mauricio Ungerfeld and 2 anonymous reviewers
The idea of altering the growth rate of replacement heifers to improve reproductive and productive indicators of dairy cattle is not new. In the late 1970s, Gill and Allaire  indicated that the first parturition between 22.5 to 23.5 months of age yielded the optimum lifetime performance as long as the heifers had adequate body size . Since 1980s, many studies have been conducted to understand the partitioning of energy between growth and lactation, including the impact of growth rates on the heifer puberty  as well as growth and development of the mammary gland [4,5]. The senior author of the recommended study has written previously about this research topic .
In the present manuscript, Le Cozler et al. studied the effect of feeding programs to increase the growth rate of late-born heifers to catch up with the growth of those born earlier in the calving season on their reproductive and productive performance. The authors analyzed 217 heifers for three consecutive years, split into three dietary treatments: control (C), accelerated growth rate from birth to 6 months of age (ID1), or accelerated growth rate from birth to 12 months of age (ID2). In this study, the late-born heifers receiving the ID2 treatment were able to partially reach the bodyweight of the early-born heifers at 24 months of age. In part, the incomplete understanding of the prioritization of the use of energy (and other nutrients) for different physiological stages (e.g., maintenance, growth, lactation, and pregnancy) of the dairy animal  undercuts the development of more robust feeding strategies to improve the reproductive and productive performance of the animal. In the recommended study by Le Cozler et al., although there was no impact on reproductive performance among groups, heifers in the group ID2 produced less milk (about 400 kg for the whole first lactation) than heifers in the groups C and ID1, apparently suggesting that energy allocation for growth had priority over that needed for lactation. The question then becomes what would have happened with energy partitioning if energy intake was restricted. Studies like this one are important to shed some light on the prioritization of the use of energy and other nutrients in support of growth, pregnancy, and lactation of dairy animals, and how compensatory growth differs between meat versus dairy growing animals, both physiologically and energetically.
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 Le Cozler, Y. L., Lollivier, V., Lacasse, P., & Disenhaus, C. (2008). Rearing strategy and optimizing first-calving targets in dairy heifers: a review. Animal, 2(9), 1393–1404. doi: 10.1017/S1751731108002498
 Tedeschi, L. O., and D. G. Fox. 2018. The Ruminant Nutrition System: An Applied Model for Predicting Nutrient Requirements and Feed Utilization in Ruminants. (2nd ed.). XanEdu, Acton, MA."