Simple economics: Beef producers look at heifer program


SALEM, Ohio – Dairy producers are doing it, making money and improving herds. So what’s the beef industry waiting on?
That’s the mindset behind a new beef heifer development program in the works by the Ohio State University Beef Team, animal science personnel and Ohio Cattlemen’s Association.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” said John Grimes, Extension educator in Highland County. “We’re just encouraging beef producers to look at the concept of having someone else raise replacement heifers, just like the dairy industry has done.”
Concept. Ohio is home to about 300,000 beef cows, Grimes said. With a standard 20 percent replacement rate per year, that leaves 60,000 heifers requiring management, both in nutrition and reproduction, to keep herd numbers steady.
“With those numbers, you can see there is a lot of opportunity there,” Grimes said.
Most Ohio’s beef herds are small, with fewer than 20 head. “Let’s face it, heifers and heifer management aren’t the most efficient things on beef farms,” he said.
“Heifers should be grouped separate from cows and calves and managed as their own group, but we know they’re not,” getting that attention, Grimes said.
That’s where the heifer development program comes in.
Work in progress. A $90,000 grant from the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation will help get the work-in-progress program up and running, according to Grimes.
“A lot of it will depend on our cooperators, the people we select to carry out the program,” Grimes said, noting specific details will be worked out along the way.
Those cooperators will follow strict regimens drawn up by Ohio State animal scientists, Beef Team members and researchers to give heifers optimum development.
Management techniques including proper nutrition, heat synchronization, calving ease genetics, and modern identification systems will be emphasized.
Other tools, like animal ID tags and readers, digital scales and artificial insemination equipment will be offered, depending on the cooperator’s facilities.
After females are confirmed bred, they can be returned to the consignor’s herd as replacement females, or offered for sale to the public as replacement females for other herds.
Location. Grimes said organizers are hoping to identify two locations in the Buckeye State where cattlemen can send their heifer calves to be developed from weanlings until the point when they’re confirmed bred.
Grimes said organizers are expecting the sites to be located near where Ohio’s cows are, south of an imaginary line drawn between Cincinnati and Wheeling, W.Va.
“We’re not hung up on the location, though,” Grimes said, noting cooperator selection will hinge on facilities and the person’s knowledge and abilities.
Grimes said the ideal cooperator would have a mixture of pasture and feedlot paddocks, a developed watering system, experience with heat detection and artificial insemination, and an eye for detail.
“We’re looking for that person who can manage cattle in smaller groups and has good husbandry. This isn’t for the novice cattleman,” he said.
Need your help. Grimes is soliciting nominations for cattlemen to serve as cooperators for the program.
The cooperators will provide the site and daily management of the heifer program, and will receive payment for their work, Grimes said.
Applications are available from Grimes by calling 937-393-1918 or by e-mail at
Applications can also be downloaded from the OSU Extension Beef Team web page or the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Web page.
Applications are due Nov. 15.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!