Even in times of high feed cost, Vance Kells is determined to keep protein levels in heifer diets at industry standards. He knows that if he were to skimp on protein, heifers at Circle Bar Heifer Ranch in Satanta, Kan., would not meet breeding size goals by 13 months of age.
If you don’t feed enough protein, “you’re not going to be able to maintain 50 inches (wither height) at 13 months old,” Kells says. “I think the numbers we give in the Gold Standards adequately grow that heifer to be bred by 13 months old.”
The “numbers” that Kells is referring to can be found in the Gold Standards II, a set of performance benchmarks developed by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association. The standards recommend that Holstein heifers six to nine months of age receive a ration with a total protein content of 15 to 16 percent. Rations fed to Holstein heifers nine to 13 months of age should contain 14 to 15 percent total protein. Heifers 13 months of age to freshening need 13.5 to 14 percent total protein.
Feeding less protein may reduce ration cost, but those savings quickly evaporate if you end up sacrificing heifer body size goals at critical stages of development.