ADHIS data shows many herds would benefit from better grown out heifers. Heifers are not realising their full potential for milk production and are calving later. On most farms heifers won't cover rearing costs until they reach 2nd lactation. If they don't get there they still owe you money when culled. Having a feed plan for heifers is as important as it is for milkers.
Heifers need high-quality supplements for at least 6 months of the year
- Critical times for feeding supplements are post weaning and when there's a shortage of quality pasture (this is usually for at least 6 months of the year).
- Use high-quality supplements containing at least 11.5 MJ ME/kg dry matter and 16% crude protein.
- You'll probably need a cereal plus a legume.
Weighing heifers is the best way to keep track of their progress.
How to work out the target weight for your heifers
Assume all your calves are the same age as the oldest in the group, as they'll be mated at the same time.
Holstein-Friesian target weight (kg) = age (months) x 20 + 40
Jersey target weight (kg) = age (months) x 15 + 35
Draft as you weigh and then preferentially feed heifers below the target weight.
Use our online ‘Heifers on Target’ tools to check your heifers’ growth rates and diets
Wither height and girth weight charts
If you don't have scales use a girth tape or wither height measuring stick.
Rearing heifers off farm
You may decide to rear heifers off farm. Make sure that both parties are clear about the expectations and responsibilities by documenting these in a contract.
View sample heifer rearing contract (PDF, 353KB)
Calf & heifer management - from InCalf Book
- Assessing calf and heifer management
- Rearing calves from birth to weaning
- Planning mating; and
- What to do during mating
Heifer liveweight card (PDF, 102KB)
Work out the target weight for your heifers and pin up in the dairy.
Heifer rearing tool
A gap calculator tool. It assesses the growth of a given group of heifers versus liveweight forage targets and its impact on herd reproductive performance and milk production