Heifers represent the future of your dairy herd. How well heifers are grown and their body condition at first calving has a big impact on their reproductive performance and milksolids production in their first season.
Well grown heifers
- Have improved milk production. Heifers reaching target liveweight will produce 8.5kgMS more in their first lactation than if they are 10% below target liveweight.
- Have greater lifetime productivity Heifers reaching target liveweight will have 5% better 6wk in-calf rates and 1.5% lower empty rates. This equates to $35 economic benefit per heifer compared to heifers 10% below target liveweight.
- Have reduced replacement costs
Feeding and nutrition is vital for the growth of young heifers. Well-grown heifers will produce more milk, compete better with mature cows and survive longer in the herd.
Well managed ryegrass pastures are a complete diet for heifers at all stages of life, including leafy kikuyu pastures. Heifers should be fed diets of 10.5MJ ME and the appropriate protein to ensure that they meet liveweight targets.
Heifer liveweight gain is the best indication of meeting nutritional requirements as well as adequate minerals and water provision. Farmers should focus on meeting key weight for age liveweight targets for heifers rather than a particular pattern of weight gain.
Nutrition pre-puberty (before 50% mature liveweight) is where skeletal growth is influenced, if R2 heifers are significantly shorter than mature cows pre-calving it will be due to feed management pre-puberty.