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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Questions about Heifer Development

Spend an afternoon reading scientific journal articles like it’s the latest newsstand gossip and your head will be spinning like a carnival ride. If only I could master the art of speed-reading…
Everyone has a different approach to developing replacement heifers for their beef herds. Some simply focus on a good feeding and mineral program, consistent from weaning through breeding. Others approach with ideas of modifying nutrition levels and gaining the advantages of compensatory gains. Then there are physiological aspects of puberty; at what age and weight will the heifer reach puberty, how can we determine this point, and how can we manage this.
Reading all of these articles, I can get pretty wrapped up in trying to over think the topics and forget what I am looking for. Sometimes our best ideas start with the basics, then work their way up.
Here are some basic principles of heifer development covered in various papers:

  • Heifers will reach puberty at a specific weight and age, which can be influenced by genetics and management of their environment
  • Post-weaning management of heifers is critical to their longevity and productivity in the cowherd.
  • Early (preweaning) rapid growth can have a negative impact on development of the reproductive tract and endocrine system in heifers.
  • Once heifers reach puberty, fertility in the first cycle in lower, increasing with the second or third ovulation.
  • In order for a heifer to calve at 24 months of age, she must be cycling and ready to breed at 15 months.
  • Breeding heifers earlier in the season will increase their longevity in the cowherd with a restricted breeding window.

Now it’s your turn. What is important to you in replacement heifer development? What aspects do you have questions about? What obstacles stand in the way of breeding heifers to calve successfully and by the age of 24 months? Do you have any suggestions or opinions from your experience?