Beth Reynolds is a Beef Extension Specialist with the Iowa Beef Center. She's leading the charge on a State Beef Checkoff funded research project exploring how to maximize performance of first calf heifers by exploring fiber supplementation.
Understanding the nuances of optimizing first calf heifer nutrition for maximal performance, particularly in the crucial period post-calving, remains challenging. The research study titled "Starch and Digestible Fiber-Based Supplementation Impact on First Calf Heifer Performance and Nutrient Mobilization Through the Production Cycle" aims to shed light on which supplementation strategies producers should prioritize.
The primary objective is to compare the effectiveness of starch versus digestible fiber-based supplements on first-calf heifer performance. The study will explore how starch inclusion rates can impact rumen metabolism, passage rates and potential negative associative effects on forage utilization. Simply put, does feeding corn, which has a quicker digestion rate, negatively impact the utilization of other other slower metabolizing feedstuffs, versus feeding distillers grains which more closely matches the passage rate of other common feedstuffs? Data will be collected on a myriad of performance markers including body condition scoring, calf performance, rebreeding success rate, carcass ultrasound and economic analysis while also accounting for factors like genetic potential and milking ability. The research team aims to assess not only reproductive outcomes but also factors like muscle development and overall condition.
Expected to conclude in early February, the comprehensive findings will be disseminated through popular press articles, field day presentations, and an animal industry report. This research equips producers with valuable insights to optimize supplementation strategies, addressing the intricate balance between nutrition, genetics, and economic considerations in cow-calf operations.