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Heifer Selection: A Topic of the Focus on Female Heifer Conference Dec. 19, 2017
December 19, 2017 @ 9:30 am - 3:00 pm
BROOKINGS, S.D. – The success of replacement programs can be measured in many ways, but is largely driven by how heifers are selected and developed before entering the herd as a mature cow, explained Taylor Grussing, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.
Replacement heifer programs will be among the topics discussed during the SDSU Extension’s Focus on Female Heifer Conference to be held in Mitchell Dec. 19, 2017 at the SDSU Extension Regional Center in Mitchell (1800 E Spruce St., Mitchell, SD 57301) from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST.
“Whether you are raising or buying herd replacements, the process of selection and development is critical to herd longevity,” Grussing said. “Selecting heifers that have the best ability to breed early in their first breeding season, increases the likelihood they will remain at the front of the cow herd for years to come.”
To register for the event, visit iGrow.org/events (http://igrow.org/events/focus-on-females-heifer-development-conference/).
If you’re not able to attend the Dec. 19 conference, below, Grussing outlines the steps to a successful replacement heifer program.
Know the end goal: Overall, the goal is to select heifers that are most likely to breed early in their first breeding season, have the capability to calve unassisted and raise a calf to weaning time. Grussing also encouraged producers to think about that end product.
“Cattle producers need to define herd profitability goals by outlining what the end product is and how it will be marketed before selecting herd replacements,” Grussing said. “If you are a commercial producer this may be pounds, while seedstock producers focus more on genetics.”
Keep birthdate in mind: Early born heifers (from the first 21 days) are more likely to reach target weights and puberty prior to start of the breeding season.
“Research shows once heifers reach puberty, fertility greatly increases from the first to the third estrus cycle. Therefore, older heifers have more time to reach a third estrus prior to the start of the breeding season compared to younger counterparts,” Grussing said.
Note: this may vary based on breed and plane of nutrition.
DNA testing: Genomic technology in the form of DNA tests, is also available to gain insight into future performance, maternal and carcass traits a heifer may offer.
Grussing said the best way to use DNA testing, is to test replacement candidates selected on herd goals first. “Use the genetic results to eliminate the outlier or tail end females that don’t fit the bill,” she said.
Don’t forget about structure: Structure plays a key role in how heifers will hold up in their environment.
“Make sure to eliminate heifers with structural problems that may be passed on to future progeny or will decrease her longevity,” Grussing said.
Look back: Before making culling decisions, take a look at dam and sire records.
Research from Nebraska shows that heifers conceiving early in their first breeding season, continue to do so over their lifetime, while also returning more calves with heavier weaning weights through five lactations.
“While maternal and reproductive traits are less predictable at selection time, using proven dam and sire information can put selection pressure on reproductive success,” Grussing said.
In addition, she said, progressive culling and dedication to herd goals will continue to improve the future cow herd.