The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring Service (NAHMS) has conducted the first-ever national USDA survey focusing specifically on U.S. dairy heifer-raising operations. The “Dairy Heifer Raiser 2011” study was conducted from April 1 through Aug. 31, 2011.  Custom dairy heifer operations totaling 228 individual businesses from 21 states participated.

The study examines a wide variety of demographics, management practices and business concerns of custom heifer raisers across the country. A few interesting highlights include:

  • The majority of heifer raisers surveyed had been in business for 10 years or less; fewer than 10 percent of the operations surveyed have been in business for more than 21 years.
  • About one-third of operations used radio-frequency ID (RFID) tags.
  • More than 40 percent of operations raise heifers that have been vaccinated for brucellosis, even though brucellosis vaccination is no longer mandatory for dairy heifers in many states.
  • The majority of operations surveyed reported that heifer health; client relations; payments from producers; and feed cost/availabilitywere very important challenges. The availability of labor was not a very important challenge to the majority of producers.

View full report of the study.

NAHMS also is seeking input from stakeholders of the U.S. dairy industry on priority issues for the industry that will be used to help develop objectives for Dairy 2014, NAHMS fifth national dairy study. You can provide input by completing a 5-minute survey. Surveys must be completed by Dec. 14.

Comments and questions: Dr. Jason Lombard at 970-494-7245 or