Heifer de­vel­op­ment starts now


There are sev­eral man­age­ment and nu­tri­tional fac­tors to con­sider when it comes to rais­ing heifers as re­place­ments for your herd. Dr. John Hall, an Ex­ten­sion Beef Spe­cial­ist with the Univer­sity of Idaho shared some good in­for­ma­tion on heifer de­vel­op­ment in a re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion.

To start, Dr. Hall talked about some goals to set with re­spect to your re­place­ment heifers. You want a heifer to have her first calf as a two-year-old, and then you want her to calve every 365 days for the next seven to eight years.

It’s im­por­tant to pre­pare your heifers for a suc­cess­ful first calv­ing. This will have an ef­fect on ges­ta­tion and calv­ing in sub­se­quent years. Dr. Hall men­tioned a study by Cush­mon et al. (2013) which found that a heifer that be­comes preg­nant in the first cy­cle (the first 21 days of the breed­ing sea­son), will wean heav­ier calves through her first six lac­ta­tions. Poor pre-par­tum nu­tri­tion leads to lower wean­ing weights and lower weights at the time of preg­nancy check­ing. This can lead to a lower per­cent­age of heifers be­com­ing preg­nant in the first breed­ing cy­cle and a lower over­all preg­nancy rate. It can also cause in­creased calv­ing dif­fi­culty.

Pro­duc­ers should set a tar­get weight for re­place­ment heifers at pu­berty. Dr. Hall sug­gests pro­duc­ers should aim for your heifers to be 65% of their ma­ture weight at pu­berty. Some pro­duc­ers tar­get heifers to be 55% of their ma­ture weight at pu­berty. There are pros and cons to both. One ben­e­fit of hav­ing your heifers at 65% of ma­ture weight at pu­berty is a de­crease in dys­to­cia (calv­ing dif­fi­culty). A ben­e­fit to hav­ing your heifers reach 55% of ma­ture weight at pu­berty is a de­creased cost in feed. Dr. Hall rea­sons that if you aim for 65% and come up a bit short, it’s not as big of a deal, but if you aim for 55% and come up short, then you start run­ning in to is­sues.

It’s im­por­tant to start think­ing about the de­vel­op­ment of re­place­ment heifers early on. This al­lows you to make im­por­tant man­age­ment de­ci­sions from the start.

For more in­for­ma­tion on this or other live­stock re­lated top­ics, please con­tact Jessica Smith, Live­stock and Feed Ex­ten­sion Spe­cial­ist in Swift Cur­rent at 306778-8289, call the Agri­cul­ture Knowl­edge Cen­tre at 1-866-457-2377, or visit our web­site www.saskatchew­an.ca.

We wish each and every one of you a happy grad­u­a­tion!

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