Relationship of post-weaning growth and age at puberty in crossbred beef heifers
This study was intended to evaluate body size structure and growth parameters of crossbred heifers fed at four nutritional levels to achieve puberty earlier. Animals were classified depending on their level of crossing between Nelore and Hereford and subjected to four nutritional levels (kg day−1) as follows: 0.5 (light; n = 32), 0.75 (medium; n = 32), 1.00 (high; n = 29), and 1.25 (very high; n = 27). Heifers at puberty and at weaning were individually classified for growth parameters. The fat thickness and longissimus muscle area throughout the experimental period were determined by ultrasonography. The height, heart girth, frame, and weight:height ratio were variables used to evaluate body traits. Univariate analysis of variance using the GLIM MIXED procedure os SPSS was performed and the significance level was set at 0.05. Age and body weight at puberty were 388±1.9 days and 331.4±1.3 kg, respectively. Body condition score demonstrated an interaction between nutritional level and crossbred degree. Heifers with the highest degree of Nelore had higher fat thickness and lower weight:height ratio compared with other racial groups at puberty. Pearson correlation coefficient showed a negative association for body condition score (−0.34) and fat thickness (−0.58) compared with age at puberty. The increased fat thickness at younger ages at puberty was observed in all racial groups. The increased weight:height ratio at younger ages at puberty was observed in all racial groups. We observed higher values for a frame in animals at the higher level of supplementation. There is a greater correlation between live weight gain and phenotypic traits during weaning to achieve puberty at an earlier age in crossbred heifers.