Reproductive performance of postpartum beef cows after short-term calf separation and dietary energy and protein supplementation

Theriogenology. 1986 Oct;26(4):433-43. doi: 10.1016/0093-691x(86)90035-x.


Beef cows (n = 294) calving between November and April in six states were used to evaluate the effects of postpartum diet and calf separation on body weight, body condition score (BCS), reproductive performance, and weaning weight of calves. In each state, half of the 48 cows that calved during 60 d were group fed an additional 4.5 kg of a 20% crude protein supplement daily for 28 d starting an average of 30 d post partum (flush). Calves were separated from half of the flush and half of the nonflush cows for 48 h at 14 and 28 d after the beginning of flush. Progesterone was quantified in plasma samples obtained weekly during a 56-d breeding period to assess ovarian luteal activity. The breeding period started at the first calf separation. BCS ranged from 3.3 to 5.6 among states (on a scale of 1 to 9) at the start of the flush but was similar for treatments within a state. There was a state x flush (P < 0.008) effect on body weight at the end of the flush period. Weaning weights were influenced by state x separation x flush (P < 0.06) and were greatest for flush nonseparated calves in five of six states. There were state x flush (P < 0.08) and separation (P < 0.04) effects on ovarian luteal activity at the start of the breeding period. Flush and separation tended to increase ovarian luteal activity. During the breeding period, ovarian luteal activity was influenced only by state but there was a state x separation x flush effect (P < 0.001) on the number of weeks post partum to onset of ovarian luteal activity. Conception rate and days postpartum to conception were not influenced by either separation or flush but were affected by state (P < 0.001). These data indicate that flushing may increase weaning weights of calves and calf separation may hasten the onset of postpartum ovarian luteal activity, but conception rate and days postpartum to conception for cows in thin to moderate body condition were not influenced by the calf separation or flushing treatments.