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How to Choose Your Replacement Heifers

By   /  September 14, 2020  /  1 Comment

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Bred heifer. Photo by Aaron Berger

This is the time of year when many folks are choosing their replacement heifers. These tips from Nebraska Extension Beef Educator Aaron Berger and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) will help you make good choices.

First, get rid of heifers whose mothers were troublesome.

Send on heifers that are:

• from cows that had difficulty calving
• from mothers that had difficulty nursing their calves
• exceptionally small at weaning
• from cows that are nervous or have an attitude problem

Getting rid of these heifers will reduce calving and herding problems and keep you safer.

Next, look at birth dates and the age of the cow.

Heifers born early in the calving season are more likely to be breed back successfully because they are more mature when breeding season arrives. Rick Funston and his colleagues looked at the “Effect of Calving Period on Heifer Progeny, and found that heifers born in the first 21 days of the calving season had an average pregnancy rate of 90% as yearlings. That dropped to 86% for heifers in the second 21-day period, and was down to 78% for heifers born in the third 21-day period. This success rate continued in the second breeding season with rates of 93%, 90% and 84% respectively base on the same time periods.

UNL researchers also found that heifer calves born to cows that were three-years-old or older were also more successful in their second year. Their study, “Effect of Dam Age on Offspring Productivity” looked at records from 1500 heifers from 1997 to 2014. They concluded that “producers should select heifers born from cows 4 to 8 years old as replacements” because those heifers will be most likely to reproduce.

Should you raise your own replacements?

Of course, before you decide which heifers you’re keeping, looking at the dollars and cents of heifer development is important. This article can get you started:

Adding it Up: What Does it Cost to Develop a Bred Heifer?

And, if your herd is less than 400 animals, Dave Pratt has some thoughts about whether raising your own replacements makes sense.

Raising Your Own Replacements? Maybe You Shouldn’t

 

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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 Comment

  1. Phil Rowland says:

    Pick your potential heifers at calving time. Then you can look at the structure, doability, feet, disposition, bag and a host of other negative or positive attributes of the mother. Then put in a different colour of tag indicating possible keep or definite cull.

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