Dairy Excel: Is contract heifer raising in your future?

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In northeast Ohio we have seen a nice increase in the number of dairy herd expansions. Many herd owners have gone from 80- or 100-cow herds to 300-cow herds. Still others have increased even larger.

As with all expansions new facilities are needed, both for housing and milking of the lactating cow herd. These facilities require a considerable investment per cow, leaving little or none for housing and managing the herd replacements.

On most farms when you analyze the facilities that the milking herd just left you find them not adequate or only partially adequate for raising the heifers for an expanded herd. Many older barns that might be available to rent usually are labor intense, do not have enough capacity and may have ventilation problems.

Something to consider. Running around the countryside feeding heifers at half a dozen locations is no fun and you do not have the quality of heifer you desire at 24 months of age. An alternative could be having someone contract raise those replacement heifers. Notice I said, contract raise and that is important for both the owner of the heifers and the heifer raisers.

The contract will spell out the services that the grower will provide and at what price the heifer owner will pay. For the heifer owner, the contract will assure the quality of heifer that will return to the herd and at a desirable cost. Of course, there are many more details that should be included in a contract.

Growers conference. To get more information of this sort, attend the contract heifer raising conference scheduled for Feb. 27 in Wooster. The ins and outs of contract heifer raising will be addressed at the conference, to be held at the Memories Conference and Party Center, 2437 Back Orrville Road, Wooster, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Registration for the program is $30 per person, which includes materials, lunch and refreshments and can be made by calling my office at 330-264-8722.

Conference topics. The program will begin with the topic “What Is The Market for Heifer Growing?” by Barry Putnam of CRI. Barry has worked with a lot of dairy producers and heifer growers and knows the needs of the industry well.

Two of the most important factors to consider in contract heifer raising are the economics and the contract. Jason Karzses from Cornell University’s Pro Dairy will address these topics. Jason has worked very closely with the Professional Heifer Growers Association and has prepared heifer growing budgets and material on contract.

What to feed growing heifers so they have the right size, frame and not be fat will be covered by Dwight Roseler of Land O’ Lakes Feed. The company has completed much research in feeding calves and heifers and works closely with many contract heifer growers.

Heifer health. Also important to the grower and the heifer owner is the health of the heifers. Tom Esselburn of Pfizer Animal Health will discuss growing healthy heifers and suggested vaccination protocols. Finally, Dr. Susan Blackburn, northeast director of the Professional Dairy Heifer Growers Association, will provide information from the association. The PDHGA has been a dynamic and growing organization. This program has been designed for those who are interested in being a contract heifer grower.

But we also welcome producers who are interested in sending their heifers out on contract and want to learn more about using a contract grower.

(Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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