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Journal of Dairy Science

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Our objective was to determine if prepubertal rate of body weight (BW) gain, independent of diet, was related to mammary development of dairy heifers. Data from two studies recently conducted at Michigan State University were used to identify factors, within a dietary treatment group, that would account for variation in first lactation milk production or amount of mammary parenchymal DNA at the time of puberty. Factors analyzed for variation in milk production during first lactation were: postpartum BW, prepubertal BW gain, gestational BW gain, postpartum BW gain, body condition score (BCS) at breeding, and BCS at calving. Factors analyzed for variation in mammary parenchymal DNA at puberty were: BW at slaughter, age at puberty, prepubertal BW gain and body protein and body fat content at slaughter. For both analyses, prepubertal BW gain did not account for any of the variation in mammary development. The only significant covariate for the milk production model (r2 = 0.44) was BCS at breeding. Similarly, the only significant covariate in the parenchymal DNA model (r2 = 0.22) was body fat content at slaughter. These results suggest that, within a dietary treatment, heifers that grow faster do not have impaired mammary development, and increased body fatness may be a better predictor of impaired mammary development than BW gain.

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