10 Tips for dairy Heifer management

What’s important during Heifer development?

  • Growing and developing heifers as quickly and cost-effectively as possible without negatively influencing cow health and lifetime productivity.
  • Maintaining optimal animal health throughout the growing phase in order to maximize the heifers’ genetic potential.
  • Continual monitoring of body condition score to ensure efficient frame size and skeletal muscle growth.
  • Using high-quality feeds and ingredients, along with consistent management practices, allowing the heifers to thrive with minimal stress.  
  • Continually measuring performance by keeping accurate records for health, growth and reproductive performance.
10 Tips for dairy Heifer management
10 Tips for dairy Heifer management

Common challenges for dairy heifers:

Grouping: Minimize variation in the size and age of heifers within a group, and strive to maintain groups within 2–4 months of age and a maximum weight variation of 200 lbs.

Adjusting rations for level of management/facilities/available feedstuffs/climate: As each of these variables change, an adjustment to the ration will likely be necessary to optimize efficient growth.

Overcrowding: A pen that is overcrowded will impact nutrient intake and growth performance, which can lead to many other challenges related to reproduction and cow health.

Feeding for cost versus performance: By feeding a properly balanced ration with proven additives, genetic potential will be achieved, and the replacement heifer will thrive as she transitions into the lactation group. Skimping on minerals, vitamins and necessary additives can quickly limit a heifer’s upward potential later in life.

Tips for maximizing health and performance: 

  • Proper nutrition: Rations need to be balanced and evaluated monthly in order to align with any growth or body condition changes that may have taken place.
  • Consistent management: Cattle pens should be evaluated daily to document any potential health or stress concerns so that any issues may be remedied as soon as possible.
  • Test feedstuffs: Regular lab analysis of the forages included in the ration is necessary in order to ensure that accurate formulation is taking place.
  • Measure performance: Routine measuring and weighing of heifers will allow for more consistent benchmarking of data and will produce key information on average daily gains and provide insights on grouping parameters.

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