Heifers often are raised even though they have a very low probability of becoming excellent milking cows, according to Pat Hoffman, dairy scientist and heifer management specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

“If there is a high risk that continuing to raise a replacement heifer is going to result in a poor milking animal, it may be prudent to cull that heifer or calf at the time the risk becomes evident,” suggests Hoffman. He further advises:

  • Freemartin heifers are obvious targets for culling. Very few will develop a functional reproductive tract.
  • Calves or heifers with severe pneumonia have been demonstrated in research to grow slower, breed and calve later, and produce less milk than their healthy herdmates.
  • Calf scours, on the other hand, has not been linked to impaired adult productivity, and should not be a consideration for culling.
  • As groups of heifers mature, the unthrifty, “slow growers” should be evaluated for possible culling, particularly if their impaired growth is due to a condition that is difficult to remedy, such as PI BVD, chronic navel infection, inbreeding, abortion or founder.
  • If genomic information is available at an early age, culling heifers for low net merit or negative predicted transmitting ability for milk yield also is an option.