Next crop: Dairy heifers are the future

The dairy replacements are the foundation of any dairy enterprise. They are the future of your dairy herd and will be one of the major factors that will determine continued improved herd performance.
Improvement of the herd is possible when culled cows are replaced by well-fed, healthy, genetically superior, and properly managed 2-year-old heifers.
Replacements. In most herds producers are replacing 25-35 percent of the cows each year.
This represents a large number of heifers that must be raised each year, and a large investment of dollars.
Dairy Heifer Production budgets from several universities (including OSU and Penn State) show total costs for raising heifers from birth to 24 months at calving to be $1,300-$1,500 per heifer.
These replacement costs contribute 15-20 percent of the cost of milk production.
Therefore, we should be paying closer attention to the calf and heifer enterprise for improved performance and controlling costs.
Into the herd. Heifers need to be coming into the herd at 22-24 months of age.
To keep a heifer over 24 months of age costs about $2 per day. That means it is costing you $60 per month, plus the loss of milk.
With today’s nutrition and genetics there is no reason why heifers cannot freshen between 22-24 months.
Reduce costs. So how do you reduce the costs of heifer raising?
Reduce feed costs by maximizing the use of quality home-grown feeds and utilize by-product feeds.
Reduce your overhead costs by providing efficient housing, feeding and labor (a managed grazing system is an option).
Reduce age at first calving by breeding at 13-14 months, thus freshening at 22-24 months.
More ideas. For more timely ideas on calf and heifer raising, why not plan on attending the Professional Dairy Heifer Growers Northeast Regional Conference?
You do not have to be a contract heifer grower to attend, as the program has topics for everyone and all are welcome.
This year’s conference will be held Nov. 9-10 at Fisher Auditorium on the OARDC campus in Wooster. The first day is conference day beginning at 9 a.m., and the second day is a tour to calf and heifer growers.
Conference topics include evaluating alternative feed pricing opportunities; food waste by-products; calf and heifer research; and how not to kill cattle with vaccinations.
Break-out sessions include contract fundamentals; an ounce of prevention or a pound of cure: it’s a matter of common sense!; feeding heifers for a lifetime of production; and marketing your business.
Special events. An evening dinner and virtual tour of a 5,000-head calf operation in California are also planned for the first day.
The registration fee for the conference – which will include continental breakfast, lunch, breaks, and proceedings -

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