The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) recently released Gold Standards II, a set of goals for Holstein heifers from 6 months of age through first calving that encompasses morbidity, mortality, nutrition and growth, housing, vaccination and parasite control, breeding and pregnant heifers.

Guidelines for managing pregnant heifers are highlighted here, and the complete Gold Standards II document is available at the DCHA Web site.

  • After pregnancy is confirmed, some animals can be expected to abort. In heifers, this typically occurs in about 3 percent of animals.
  • When it is necessary to run clean-up bulls with pregnant heifers, routine health maintenance for bulls is recommended at six-month intervals, including vaccination, deworming and breeding soundness exams. Rotate and replace bulls as needed.
  • Recheck heifers to confirm pregnancy diagnoses. In most cases, this should occur 70 to 100 days after the initial check. For custom-reared heifers, rechecks should be made before animals leave the operation and accurate breeding and due dates should be communicated to the dairy. Recheck heifers raised on-site before they move to the pre-fresh pen.
  • Revaccinate springing heifers four to eight weeks before calving to boost colostrum antibody quality. Work with your veterinarian to develop vaccination plans that address disease concerns specific to your situation.
  • Before calving, heifers need 30 inches of bunk space and one 43-inch x 96-inch free-stall or 100 square-feet of resting space per animal. House pre-fresh heifers separately from mature cows.
  • The pre-calving target weight is 1,350 pounds for Holsteins (or 85 percent of the weight of full-term, pregnant, mature cows in the herd), and target body condition score at freshening is 3.5 (on a 5-point scale).

Source: Dairy Calf and Heifer Association