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Calve heifers early for profitable returns

July 21, 2013
POSTED BY: Richard Wallace | DVM, MS | Managing Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

When it comes to your breeding program, where are heifers on the priority list? They represent the best genetics within the herd, and ensuring they calve in a timely manner is crucial to their future production.

According to industry estimates, it costs between $1,595 and $2,935 to raise a heifer from birth until freshening.1 That’s pricey, right? And when you count how many heifers you have, it adds up to a pretty big price tag. You can reduce this investment by calving heifers earlier.

The decision to breed heifers to calve between 22 and 23 months of age needs to begin before they are ready for first insemination. Set goals and monitor growth to ensure replacement heifers are reaching breeding size targets by 12 to 13 months of age. Heifers must reach size benchmarks to ensure a healthy calving and a smooth transition into higher production.

Producers who routinely achieve an age at first calving between 22 and 24 months capture increased return on their heifer-raising investment in many different ways:

  • Reduced raising costs — Lowering age at first calving reduces raising costs.
  • Earlier investment returns —Heifers that join the milking herd begin to return on their raising investment earlier in life.
  • Increased herd management flexibility —Heifers entering the herd earlier can provide opportunities for expansion or voluntary culling.
  • Fewer replacements needed — When heifers calve sooner, it reduces the number of replacement heifers needed to meet herd size goals.

Don’t overlook this profitable decision. Make heifer breeding a priority. Contact your Zoetis representative and work with your veterinarian to achieve a better return on your investment.  



1 Hoard’s Dairyman. There’s nothing equal when raising heifers. Available at: www.hoards.com/E_calf_heifer/HR03. Accessed April 22, 2013.


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