The Heifer Costs Calculator spreadsheet, offered by Jud Heinrichs of Penn State University, provides a tool to determine the actual cost of raising replacement heifers on any dairy operation. It takes only about 30 minutes to complete if you have data available.
There's no doubt it is a painstaking process to do all the measuring and recording necessary, as well as filling in every spreadsheet cell. However, doing so forces you to take your analysis from vague and subjective to clear-cut and objective.
Even if you already participate in a benchmarking business analysis, it might be useful to punch your numbers into this spreadsheet to compare results. A study Heinrichs conducted on Pennsylvania dairies in 2011, with milk herds ranging from 38 cows to 1,708 cows, revealed a significant difference in efficiencies. Heinrichs says the total cost to raise a heifer from birth until freshening ranged from $1,100 to $2,500.