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Alpharma Beef Cattle Nutrition Symposium: implications of nutritional management for beef cow-calf systems.

Funston, R. N., Summers, A. F., Roberts, A. J.
Journal of animal science 2012 v.90 no.7 pp. 2301
beef cattle, beef industry, calves, carcass characteristics, cattle feeding, cow-calf operations, cows, diet, environmental factors, feedlots, fetal development, fetus, forage, herds, liveweight gain, maternal nutrition, nutrient availability, nutrient requirements, nutrients, nutritional status, parturition, physiological state, pregnancy, progeny, reproductive efficiency, reproductive traits, ruminant nutrition, weight loss, United States
The beef cattle industry relies on the use of high-forage diets to develop replacement females, maintain the cow herd, and sustain stocker operations. Forage quantity and quality fluctuate with season and environmental conditions. Depending on class and physiological state of the animal, a forage diet may not always meet nutritional requirements, resulting in reduced ADG or BW loss if supplemental nutrients are not provided. It is important to understand the consequences of such BW loss and the economics of providing supplementation to the beef production system. Periods of limited or insufficient nutrient availability can be followed by periods of compensatory BW gain once dietary conditions improve. This may have less impact on breeding animals, provided reproductive efficiency is not compromised, where actual BW is not as important as it is in animals destined for the feedlot. A rapidly evolving body of literature is also demonstrating that nutritional status of cows during pregnancy can affect subsequent offspring development and production characteristics later in life. The concept of fetal programming is that maternal stimuli during critical periods of fetal development have long-term implications for offspring. Depending on timing, magnitude, and duration of nutrient limitation or supplementation, it is possible that early measures in life, such as calf birth BW, may be unaffected, whereas measures later in life, such as weaning BW, carcass characteristics, and reproductive traits, may be influenced. This body of research provides compelling evidence of a fetal programming response to maternal nutrition in beef cattle. Future competitiveness of the US beef industry will continue to be dependent on the use of high-forage diets to meet the majority of nutrient requirements. Consequences of nutrient restriction or supplementation must be considered not only on individual animal performance but also the developing fetus and its subsequent performance throughout life.