Historically, dairy producers have striven to maximize the number of heifer calves born on their farms, the number of heifers kept alive, and the number of pregnant heifers.
Randy Greenfield, Wisconsin-based dairy specialist with Vita Plus, says it’s still a good thing to have low death loss and get heifers pregnant efficiently. But how many of those heifers you choose to raise and breed may be changing.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the cost of raising heifers, without an appreciable increase in the value of a springing heifer,” says Greenfield. He notes that last year’s drought has made current feedstuffs more costly and scarce. What’s more, sexed semen has significantly grown the population of heifers on many dairies.
Greenfield estimates the cost of raising a heifer to springer stage currently is $2,100 to $2,200, with a current market price of about $1,500 to $1,600 for good-quality springers. “Growing extra heifers to sell as springers is not a profitable enterprise given today’s economics,” he advises.
For additional advice on estimating how many heifers to keep; how to make young stock culling decisions; and breeding strategies to maximize heifer quality, click here.