Issue of the Week (Dec. 3-7): Deciding whether to replace a milk cow with a heifer, sell young heifers or sell bred heifers.

What’s the Issue?

  • Producers with good reproduction have an abundance of replacement heifers and are having a hard time deciding whether to replace a cow with a heifer or sell a heifer.  If producers sell heifers, then they have to decide at what age to sell them.

What’s the Impact?

  • Overcrowding dairy cows is counterproductive and leads to inefficiencies.  For example; a barn that’s 150% crowded per bunk space will have the same total milk volume in the tank as the same barn at 120% crowded.
  • The overcrowding is costing dairies additional costs in feed, maintenance and labor.
  • Financial analysis of high producing dairy herds with optimal fertility indicates that the most profitable herd demographic has about 38-40% lactation one cows.  This optimizes total milk production and genetic improvement.

 ANIMART Solution(s):

  • You can’t manage or control your herd if you don’t measure or record certain events.  Record sick events and cull heifers early if they have two or more sick events.  These heifers will be more at risk of not being productive.
  • Consider genomic testing young heifer calves and selling the bottom 10%.
  • Fine-tune heifer reproduction so that they’re bred as soon as they’re ready.
  • With expensive feed prices, each day a heifer is open costs a producer about $3 or more.  It will cost an average producer in Wisconsin $1,600 to raise a springing heifer but if you sell her, the average producer would get $1500.  That $100 loss could be offset by getting her bred a month earlier.
  • Make sure that the herd is about 40% lactation one.  Producers should be labeling older, problem or heavy cows with a DNB before breeding them to encourage culling the right animals.  This will also make them more profitable because pregnancy lowers milk production and components.
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