Heifer Rearing Targets
Winter 2014-2015

Replacement heifers are the future of your dairy herd. In a non-quota era, the long term financial penalties of reduced performance in your milking herd if your heifer rearing is not a key focus/fully target driven will be magnified. The net cost of rearing a replacement heifer on your farm is estimated to be circa €1,500 per head by Teagasc.  Invest wisely.

Achieving the target weights at critical stages for each breed during the first two years of life will go a long way to ensuring lower rearing costs and maximising future performance of your replacement heifers.  Figure 1 shows the target weights for a number of breeds, each having a target 30%, 60% and 90% of mature live weight at established intervals.

Key Point: Knowing the target weights for your replacement heifers, monitoring performance and taking corrective action to get back on target where necessary is critical.

Target Driven Mating
Traditionally maiden heifers are targeted to be mated at 15 months and to calf at 24 months.  The latest research from Teagasc shows that bodyweight and body condition score (BCS) at mating are far more important than age with heifers mated at target bodyweight and BCS producing significantly more milk in their first lactation.  It is, in fact, possible to mate your heifers at 13 months and calf them at 22 months provided they achieve the correct weight for their breed and a minimum BCS of 3.25 at 13 months. Doreen Corridan has repeatedly recommended this approach in Milk Matters articles.

Key Point: There is a shift of focus from AGE TO WEIGH & BCS. Bodyweight and condition score is more important than age in determining the correct timing to begin mating your heifers.


Target Driven Supplementation over the winter
• Age 6 months +: On grass based silage (70 DMD) diets, spring born weanling heifers will achieve weight gains of approximately 0.5Kg/day with 1.52Kg concentrate/day (we recommend Prime Elite Heifer Rearer 19% Cube).  Feeding rates should only be reduced if animals are ahead of targets and should be increased or decreased depending on silage quality (circa 0.5Kg/day per 4 units DMD).
• Pre Calving Heifers. Good quality silage (70+ DMD) is generally sufficient for the in-calf heifer provided they are up to target weight at housing. Heifers that are below target live weight may be fed up to 2Kg concentrate per head per day until 6-8 weeks pre-calving (we recommend Prime Elite Heifer Rearer 19% Cube). From then until calving, switch to a quality pre-calving mineral with vitamins e.g. Superchoice Precalver Gold. 

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