The experiments were conducted to investigate the effect of sire breed and production system on serum GH, insulin, prolactin, glucose and blood urea nitrogen concentrations in growing beef cattle. A total of 187 steers, representing a wide range of maturity types, was reared to slaughter on either the 16-month or 24-month production systems in experiment 1, and blood samples for hormone and metabolite determinations were collected at 3-monthly intervals. Experiment 2 compared only the extremes of maturity type, with four early- and four late-maturing animals on each production system. Blood samples from these animals were collected hourly for 10 h on 2 or more consecutive days at six different time periods during the growth of the animals.
Although significant between-breed differences in hormone concentrations were observed in experiment 1, there were no significant correlations between growth rate and circulating hormone concentrations. These results were largely borne out by the more detailed blood sampling used in experiment 2.
Differences did occur in live-weight gain, GH and insulin concentrations between production systems, although these were largely determined by the induced changes resulting from the imposition of a store period on the animals produced through the 24-month production system.
These results indicate that between-breed differences in growth rate cannot be accounted for by differences in circulating GH, insulin and prolactin concentrations. Rather, it appears that the hormones are primarily used to enable the animal to adjust its metabolism to changes in nutrient supply.