With most spring calving herds, the current focus centres around drying off the main herd and getting set up for the dry period. However, it is important not to forget about the next generation of milking cows – our replacement heifers.
The target for a replacement heifer’s first winter period is to achieve daily liveweight gains of 0.5 – 0.7 kg/heifer/day over the housed period. To achieve this, we must feed heifers accordingly, which will be dependent on the silage quality available to them. With typical silage, a 16% crude protein supplement will be sufficient.
Ideally, prior to the first winter period, heifers should be weighed to ensure targets are being met to achieve the desired weight at breeding. Thereafter, heifers should be batched according to weight for the housed period. Underweight heifers are usually harder to get in-calf initially. Heifers that fail to reach target weights before breeding and calving will produce less milk in their first lactation and struggle to go back in-calf. Lighter heifers below their target weight must be offered a higher rate of concentrate and should be the first group turned out to grass next spring.
Research has highlighted that early spring grass can support liveweight gains of up to 1 kg/head/day. Therefore, early turnout is essential with all replacement heifers and prioritising heifers that are behind their target weight is vital. Turning out early has the added benefit of reduced feed costs, particularly in the current volatile market for feed inputs.
For further information on setting your replacement heifer up for success, contact your local Agritech Sales Advisor.