Andy Adler BVM&S MBA PGCert Vet Ed MRCVS
Whether you calve all year round or seasonally, rearing heifers so that they calve successfully and have a healthy start to their productive life is essential to ensure good herd fertility.
From an economical perspective, if the age at first calving (AFC) is 24 months, this will minimise the non- productive period of the animal and helps to maintain a seasonal pattern in the herd. To achieve this, they have to be bred at 15 months old at a sufficient body weight. Heifers need to hit 55-60% of mature body weight (BW) at service such that they calve in at 85-90% of mature BW. Achieving these numbers means they need to grow at least 0.75KG/d on average. Good growth rates can be achieved in the first two months by feeding higher rates of milk powder and by maintaining overall health to create an even group of animals.
Research has shown that those animal calving at 24 months subsequently have better fertility and shorter calving intervals. As pressure increases to manage the carbon footprint of a herd, improving fertility by making sure that heifers are growing at the correct rate and hitting BW targets will become more important.
To ensure you are maximising the potential of your herd, please discuss your heifer growth strategy with your veterinary and nutritionist team.