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Reducing Heifer Development Costs By Growing Smaller Cows and Using Lower-Quality Forages

By   /  October 30, 2017  /  4 Comments

More recent research is overturning old ideas about heifer development and providing ways to reduce costs while maintaining breed-back rates and longevity in the herd.

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About the author

Aaron Berger is a Beef Systems Extension Educator for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He works out of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. His areas of focus are beef systems for sustainability, profitability, health and well-being, quality and wholesomeness.


  1. Doug says:

    Nice article…coincides well with work the Kerr Center did many years ago. Most wild ruminants females in the US are ‘on the gain’ or ‘in positive energy balance’ coming into the breeding season…..the translation to cattle should be the same…ie ‘natural model’.

    This article is obviously written for spring calving herds. What is the thought process and management philosophy for developing low input fall calving heifers?

    Again nice article!

  2. Rot Boswell says:

    I don’t know if i do low input or not .I have hay fields with a good stand of clover. when i take the 2nd cutting off i put it aside for my calves 1st of Aug. when I pull calves in Oct. they go on my hay fields and get 2nd cutting of hay no grain. I get better size in Feb. then I did when I feed the grain. cut the cost by a lot

  3. Melinda Sims says:

    We agree wholeheartedly with the smaller breeding size for heifers and developing them so as to take advantage of compensatory growth in the spring. However, we have been leaving the heifers on their mothers and not weaning until 9-10 months of age. There is no more perfect food than mother’s milk and she can give it to her much cheaper than we can supplement the heifer! Our breeding rates for heifers have not been compromised, our cost of developing them is GREATLY reduced, they have constant “cow” supervision so they learn to become foragers, no ill effects on the mother’s raising them, AND research shows that nursing for that long can help the heifer’s rumen develop to its full potential. We want our cows to be efficient foragers so this is highly important to us.

  4. curt gesch says:

    I’m not much of a sheep person, but what this article says sounds an awful lot like flushing ewes.

    I have two comments: 1) Why use the ionophores at all (lovely word? Why not grow good forage? And why put heifers on low-quality forage at all? “Average quality” maybe, but low-quality?
    2) To get cows to rebreed at about 100% rate, raise Dexters and keep a bull. 🙂

    I know one person who raises excellent Angus and uses Rumensin. That person also set-stocks pastures and the cows/calves are “eating roots” by fall.


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