The nutritional buffering capacity of the beef cow, defined as the ability to absorb low levels of feeding without compromising productivity, is reviewed in regard to winter management. It is shown that resistance to liveweight loss is repeatable for cows within the same herd between years (correlations 0.4 to 0.8, P<0.01). However this capacity is associated with lower calf weaning weight (correlations 0.3 to 0.5, P<0.05). There was no association between the amount of winter liveweight loss and cow liveweight, calf birth weight or time to first oestrus in the cow. It is shown that these results are consistent with evidence for the variation of maintenance requirements between cows. It is suggested that the buffering capacity of the beef cow could be exploited through animal breeding or by management of early nutrition. There may be no one cow type which is optimal for all farming situations, and instead a range of cow types which are more or less able to buffer feed shortages may be preferred.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 54, , 329-332, 1994
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