Consignments for the Pa. Heifer Development Program now available

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The executive committee of the Pennsylvania Livestock Evaluation Center has authorized the initiation of a heifer development and breeding program at the facility near State College in Centre County.

Nominations are now available for eligible heifers and performance testing of bulls at the center, according to John Comerford, associate professor of dairy and animal science in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The college partners with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in operating the center.

Mixed blessing

“The replacement heifer is a mixed blessing for most cow-calf operators,” Comerford said. “On one hand, she represents future profitability and genetic improvement of the cow herd, thus her selection and development are of paramount importance to the continued success of any operation. On the other hand, the replacement heifer is an inconvenience at best.

“Her smaller size and higher nutritional requirements dictate she be raised and managed separately from the rest of the herd; yet the fact that she is essentially nonproductive for the first two years of her life makes her vulnerable to mismanagement.”

The purpose of the Pennsylvania heifer program, Comerford explained, is to provide small beef producers in Pennsylvania and surrounding states with a method to successfully identify, develop, grow and breed replacement heifers. Heifers born between Jan. 1, 2010, and April 15, 2010, will be eligible for the program.

“Heifers will be delivered in October, raised to their critical breeding weight with balanced feed rations, synchronized for estrus, and bred at a predetermined time,” Comerford said. “The specific synchronization program will represent the most effective protocol available for timed insemination.”

Options are open

Pregnancy will be determined using a blood test, and the bred heifers can be returned to the farm, or a minimum of 30 heifers may be consigned to a private treaty sale at the Pennsylvania Livestock Evaluation Center. Producers may choose the sires to be used or may use bulls from a selected set of sires. Professional breeding technicians will do all inseminations.

Cost

The cost of the program will be $1.75 per day per heifer, plus semen, veterinary care and drug costs. Owners of heifers bred in the first synchronization will be charged about $400.

For more information, including a proposed timeline and management protocol, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s website at http://www.livestockevaluationcenter.com/; call the Pennsylvania Livestock Evaluation Center at 814-238-2527; or call Comerford at 814-863-3661.

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