EFFECT OF SUPPLEMENTING ALGAE TO BREEDING AND EARLY GESTATION NULLIPAROUS HEIFERS ON GROWTH AND REPRODUCTION
Fat supplementation has potential to improve reproductive performance and increase pregnancy rates in cattle by increasing the energy density of the diet. However, some of the positive effects of fat seem to be influenced by the type of fatty acid fed. Supplementation of omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids increase uptake of n-3 fatty acids into tissue phospholipids and can mitigate immune and inflammatory responses in favor of pregnancy maintenance in cattle. However, n-3 fatty acid supplementation in ruminants has been associated with a decrease in circulating PGF2α, which may delay CL regression, extend an animal’s time in diestrus, and prevent ovulation. Prostaglandin F2α is a series 2 prostaglandin, synthesized from omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids, which is inhibited by production of series 3 prostaglandins from n-3 fatty acids. Docosohexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) are long-chain n-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that have important biological effects on reproduction through their involvement in hormone and series 3 prostaglandin synthesis. Ruminant tissues are naturally almost devoid of n-3 long-chain PUFA, specifically EPA and DHA. Fish oil is the most common ration additive used to provide very long chain n-3 fatty acids to ruminants. However, marine fish do not synthesize n-3 fatty acids; they consume microscopic algae or other algae-consuming fish to obtain n-3 fatty acids. Algae biomass provides a consistent source of DHA and EPA that could be fed to alter hormonal profiles and improve reproduction of beef heifers. Eighty-eight Angus × Simmental heifers (427 ± 1.8 kg) were blocked by BW and allotted to 2 treatments (44/treatment, 4 pens/treatment, 11 heifers/pen). Control heifers were fed a diet that contained (DM basis) 52.8% mixed grass silage, 32% corn silage, and 15.2% concentrate. DHAgold™ (49% fat; 21.8% DHA; DSM Inc.) was included in the algae diet at 1.65% of DM, replacing equal parts of corn and DDGS. Diets were formulated to contain 12% CP and 0.79 Mcal/kg NEg. Heifers were fed treatment diets from 54 d prior to the breeding season through the first trimester. Follicular fluid was collected on day 47 for hormonal analysis. Artificial insemination (AI) was from d 55 to 98, after which open heifers were removed to 1 control and 1 algae pen and placed with a bull. The study ended on d 180. Performance data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure and conception data were analyzed using the GLIMMIX procedure of SAS. Dominant follicle diameter and follicular estrogen concentration were unaffected by treatment (P≥0.12). Follicular insulin-like growth factor-1 was greater in algae compared to control heifers (P=0.03). During the pre-breeding period, algae supplemented heifers had lesser DMI (P=0.006), and greater ADG (P=0.03) during the breeding period, while BW tended to be greater compared to control heifers on d 98 and 180 (P≤0.07). First service conception rate did not differ between treatments (P=0.67); however, second service tended (P=0.08) and overall conception was (P=0.03) lesser in algae compared to control heifers. These data suggest supplementing DHA-rich algae improved growth, but decreased conception rates of primiparous beef females.