Preparing heifers for breeding

Preparing heifers for breeding minimizes costs and maximizes profitability

Heifers represent the best genetics in the herd, so ensuring they calve on time is crucial—especially when considering the price tag each heifer has until freshening. According to industry estimates, it costs between $1,595 and $2,935 to raise a heifer from birth until freshening.1

Focus on heifer breeding with these tips:

·         Minimize raising costs and maximize profitability. Breed heifers to calve at 22 months of age. Every month first calving is delayed can cost producers more than $100 per heifer in lost milk production and additional raising costs.2

·         Set goals for growth and monitor progress. Preparing heifers for successful calving at 22 months of age needs to begin before they are ready for breeding. Track growth to ensure replacement heifers reach breeding size targets by 12 months of age.

·         Raise better heifers through better genetics. The use of genomics can help identify the animals in a herd with the greatest genetic potential and make better heifer breeding or culling decisions when they are young to improve the profitability of the farm. Genomic tests can also help make management decisions regarding which animals should be prioritized to receive sexed semen.

·         Prep heifers for breeding. When heifers meet size targets, move heifers to the breeding pen. Use a prostaglandin F2α like dinoprost tromethamine alone, or in combination with an intravaginal progesterone insert, to help synchronize estrus and decrease the number of days to first breeding.

·         Continue to evaluate success. Monitor and track if all heifers are meeting goals for age at first insemination. Measure and evaluate progress after each pregnancy check and immediately make plans for how to re-inseminate open heifers.

In heifer breeding, key decisions and simple steps can help accelerate performance, which is important for the bottom-line of the dairy. Visit to learn more.

1Stuttgen S, Kohlman T, Hoffman P, Zwald A. There's nothing equal when raising heifers. Hoard's Dairyman,  August 20, 2014.
2Lormore MJ. The case for a quality dairy replacement program. Proceedings. NRAES Dairy Calves and Heifers: Integrating Biology and Management Conference 2005.


Source: DCRC newsletter



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