Replacement heifer management (Proceedings)
Objectives / key points
• The characteristics of females selected for retention into the breeding herd impacts long term herd performance and economic viability.
Replacement heifers represent the future of the cow-calf operation. These females are the genetics behind the next generation of farm offspring. Efficient development is critical as raising a replacement heifer represents a significant asset that does not generate a return until the first calf is sold. Beef herd productivity is increased when a high percentage of the heifers are bred early in the season. Heifers have higher rates of calving difficulty when compared to mature cows. Yet, there are some management tools that can be used to identify and minimize risk factors for dystocia. Lifetime productivity is also an important consideration in planning the female development timeline. Heifers calving at 24 months of age produce an earlier return on investment and potentially have more calves than females who are older at calving.Targets for the beef replacement heifer program are: increase / maintain a high conception rate early in the breeding season, minimize dystocia rate, promote good post-calving conception rates, and increase farm income through efficient lifetime productivity. To achieve these goals, we must utilize a plan that addresses rate limiting steps or critical control points during each production phase. From birth to calving, heifer production can be divided into six key phases: pre-weaning, weaning, pre-breeding, breeding, mid-gestation, and calving.
Development of a replacement heifer management program is a good opportunity for veterinarians to add value to client relationships. Many producers have failed to adopt proven techniques such as estrus synchronization, artificial insemination, and EPD-based selection. Creating and implementing a protocol for meeting farm targets for replacement females results in a mutually beneficial relationship between client and veterinarian. The client benefits through utilizing knowledge to improve production efficiency, while practitioners garner income for performing services and providing advice about best management procedures. The purpose of this presentation is to describe several specific points where veterinarians can assist producers develop quality heifers in an efficient manner.