King Hickman, consultant with GPS Dairy Consulting LLC, discussed current dairy herd management recommendations at the 2014 I-29 Dairy Conference in Sioux Falls, SD. Regarding calves and heifers, Hickman said days on feed and calving age significantly impact a dairy’s profit or loss, because raising replacements is a large cost center of any dairy.
He noted that improvements in pregnancy rates, calves born alive, calf rearing, heifer breeding and housing – along with sexed semen – have created “extra” heifers or “more investment” for many herds.
Hickman noted that today’s calf- and heifer-rearing goals and priorities have shifted. He shared the following “paradigm shifts” between the old and new ways of approaching replacement rearing:
8-10 % DOA’s <4-5% DOA’s
2 quarts colostrum 3-4 quarts colostrum
Check colostrum quality Check blood proteins
1 lb. milk replacer/day 2% of body weight in milk solids/day
Wean when eating 1.5 lbs. starter Weaning weight is double birth-weight @ 8 weeks
Calf loss <5% of wet calves Calf loss <2-3% of wet calves
Accelerated milk replacer Pasteurized milk
Avoid higher ADG on young calves Preweaned calves growing in excess of 2 lbs./day
Avoid ADG > 1.8-1.9 lbs. 1.8 – 2.2 lbs./day gain readily achieved
Survival to 6 Mo often <85% Survival to 6 Mo often >90%
Breed @ 14-15 Mo Breed based on size & stature
Bull breeding common AI breeding common
Pregnancy Rate <30% Pregnancy Rate>37%
Raise all heifers born alive Chosen genetics after birth
The consultant suggested these questions to consider when determining an operation’s replacement-rearing priorities:
1. Does it make economic sense to raise all heifers – considering time-value of the investment?
2. Which heifers should make your dairy team?
3. Can overall rearing costs be reduced by actually spending more on raising wet calves?
4. What are the best performance metrics for calves & heifers?