Monitoring bodyweight and average daily gain is important in making the right feeding and culling decisions, Boomer points out.
6. Introduction to breeding pen.
“Movement to the breeding pen must be based primarily upon accurate hip heights and bodyweight measurements, with age as a secondary parameter,” Boomer says. “Holsteins should be 51 to 52 inches at the hip when entering the breeding pen.”
At M & M, they wait until the animals are 52 inches at the hip and a minimum of 850 pounds.
Meticulous records are kept of the animals’ breeding progress.
“Age at conception is the key performance indicator to monitor for heifers in the breeding pen,” Boomer says.
7. Movement to close-up pen.
“The most common mistake in this phase is not getting springing heifers on the close-up diet for more than 21 days before freshening,” Boomer says. “Move heifers to the closeup pen before they reach 250 days carried calf,” he adds. “The key numbers to monitor are days in close-up pen and dry matter intake. Monitor variation, as well as averages. Days in close-up pen should be greater than 21 and the average dry matter intake for Holstein heifers greater than 24 pounds.
“The second most common mistake is not feeding the rumen microbes to provide about 1,200 grams metabolizable protein,” Boomer says. “The fetus and mammary gland are developing at a very fast rate as the end of gestation nears, resulting in increased requirements for metabolizable protein and energy.”
Look at the uniform size of these heifers in the breeding pen at M & M Feedlot in Parma, Idaho. Prior to entering the breeding pen, animals were grouped according to weight and fed to exact nutritional needs. Again, M & M Feedlot is meticulous on this point. The animals within a pen are usually within 8 to 10 days of one another in terms of pregnancy length, which allows them to be fed according to their exact nutritional needs for that stage of gestation.
8. Animal comfort and welfare.
“In today’s society, consumers want the ideal,” Boomer points out. “If you say you are doing it, you had better be able to prove it.
“Therefore, protocols must be in place for housing, feeding, breeding, moving and handling and treating all ages of livestock on the farm,” he says. There must be consequences for individuals who do not follow protocols, he adds. “Protocols must be in writing and training programs must be documented. These records are the only way to defend the practices on your farm.”
For more information:
More details on the eight calf- and heifer-raising bottlenecks are available in the paper “Guidelines for successful dairy heifer development” by Gene Boomer, manager of field technical services for Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition. The paper was presented this past March at the Western Dairy Management Conference in Reno, Nev., and can be accessed online at: http://tinyurl.com/ag6rxgk