Keeping track of individual animal weights is probably the best way to know if you are achieving basic performance goals, says Greg Goodell, veterinarian with the Dairy Authority in Greeley, Colo.

Goodell recommends taking individual heifer weights at three different time periods

  • Upon arrival
  • At pre-breeding (11 to 12 months), and;
  • Two to seven days before the heifer leaves.

There is a lot that can be learned with these weights, says Goodell. Weights taken upon arrival can be compared to peer groups or to groups of heifers from the same source arriving previously. Heifers arriving at lower-than-normal weights may indicate a health problem at the source farm.

The pre-breeding weight may be used as the first level of performance review. If the heifer is not meeting a minimum average daily gain by breeding, she may need to be culled. “Having the average daily gain when speaking with the owners is an excellent tool for the producer showing up at the heifer yard to approve heifer culls, and an even a better tool for those producers who cannot show up to physically see their heifers,” says Goodell.

Average daily gain at pre-breeding is also an excellent tool for the nutritionist to determine the efficacy of his rations or a measure of management programs on site. Cost-benefit assignments can also be made with much greater accuracy.

And, last but not least, the weight at the end of a heifer’s time at the feed yard can be used to put a final number on all that went into getting her to the maternity pen on the dairy. It will point out weakness in a program and also let the owner know exactly the condition at which his heifers return to the dairy.