Too Many Heifers? How do I cope?

Heifers in field

Some dairies like to fill their farms with female dairy heifers to cope with “what if?” scenarios. Disease challenges and reproductive disasters happen, right? Other businesses find it hard to fill empty spaces and struggle to find the replacements, so it’s hard to get that Sweet Spot for greatest potential and lowest rearing losses.

A new model has been developed which helps producers ask themselves when to keep heifers and when to decide for them not to enter the milking herd. Whether or not to use sexed semen, conventional or beef (for the lower genetic performers) is up to the individual management system and farm environment but careful decisions on what to do when serving heifers are clearly essential for maximising profitability.

Mike Overton and Kevin Dhyvetter write in the Journal of Dairy Science, of a system based on modelling data from 50 US Holstein dairy herds. They looked at factors to include when considering heifer rearing costs (below)

Then they looked at potential losses if the decisions to keep or sell/cull were not ideal. Costs ranged between US$1,700 and US$2,400.

Profitability appeared to be influenced mainly by rate of weight gain in youngstock and genetic potential, raising yields and resilience to disease.

Check the paper out in the Journal of Dairy Science 2020

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