TIPS FOR CONTROLLING HEIFER FEED COSTS
Feed costs comprise 55 to 60 percent of the total cost of rearing dairy replacement heifers, so keeping a sharp eye on feed expenses can have a tremendous impact on enterprise profitability. Pat Hoffman, dairy scientist and heifer management specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says managing feed costs need not mean sacrificing heifer quality. To achieve both, he recommends:
- Understand heifer nutritional requirements – The nutritional requirements of heifers are much different than those of lactating cows. Use published guidelines specifically for heifers when formulating rations, and work with a knowledgeable dairy nutritionist.
- Adjust ration to changing environment – Energy adjustments based on environmental conditions are important for heifers, because they often are reared in conditions outside of thermal neutrality. This is especially true for younger heifers (<300 pounds).
- Avoid over-conditioning – Too much energy in the ration adds up to unnecessary expense plus over-conditioned heifers. Those animals are more prone to calving difficulties and metabolic diseases at freshening.