Make summer growth a priority to hit key dairy heifer targets

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Length: 1-2 words; 214 minutes

Image of a Heifer

To successfully calve heifers at 22-24 months of age, target growth rates of 0.70-0.85kg/day must be maintained throughout the grazing season. Yet with even ideal grazing only able to support 0.2kg/day in 100kg liveweight (LW) heifers and 0.6kg/day at 200kg LW, supplementation is essential.

“The alternative is to calve later, which can seem attractive when looking to reduce summer feed costs, but will actually cost more in the long run,” highlights KW nutritionist Charlotte Ward.

According to Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) figures, a 200-cow herd would have to carry between 22-36 extra heifers if calving at 30 months instead of 24 months, depending on culling rate. And the costs continue to mount up post-calving – older calving has also been shown to reduce fertility, milk yields and survival rates once in the herd.

“You’re better off investing the necessary resources into fewer animals to maintain growth year-round and calve sooner,” Ms Ward continues.

Course blend image
A KW custom blend can be tailored to match nutrient requirements.

“Additional quality protein is particularly important to support lean frame growth and help avoid excess fat deposition, with one option being the dedicated youngstock blends like Precision Lifetime Rearer 17, or a custom blend.

“Yes, it is a cost, but it’s typically far lower than the cost of extra heifers, lost milk production and higher culling rates.”

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