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Maintaining heifer performance at grass

Sector News Sector News19-5-2020

Although maintaining heifer performance at grass can be a challenge, it is possible through careful planning and feed management.

In order to ensure heifers are the right weight and stature to calve at 24 months they need to gain on average 0.80 kg/day throughout the rearing period. To achieve this, they will require a daily energy intake of approximately 70 MJ.

Heifers turned out to grass

Monitoring

To ensure heifers maintain a good growth rate whilst at grass, it is important to regularly measure grass cover and dry matter content. This both ensures that heifers are supplied with the right quantity and quality of grazing, and highlights any shortfalls in requirements.

Feeding

To buffer any shortfalls, concentrate or forage can be fed as required.

It’s important to use concentrates which have been specifically designed for grazing heifers as grazing normally has adequate crude protein for heifer requirements and targeted concentrates will be low in protein and high in fibre.

Finally, it is important not to forget about vitamins and minerals; ensure that your grazing heifers are correctly supplemented to avoid any future health or performance problems.

Create a grazing plan

The best way to ensure that heifers perform well at grass is to create a grazing plan which is reviewed regularly, and to supplement where necessary in order to prevent any dips in performance.

A six month old heifer with a target daily light weight gain (DLWG) of 0.85Kg/day will need a dry matter intake (DMI) of 4.1Kg/day. With grass at 20% DM, that means the heifer needs 21Kg fresh grass per day.

A bulling heifer at 13.5 months old, with a target DLWG  of 0.9Kg/day will need a DMI of 8.6Kg/day. With grass at 20% DM that equates to 43Kg fresh grass per day.

Vitamin supplementation

The importance of vitamins and minerals in the heifer’s diet is often underestimated. Correct supplementation at grass is vital for health and performance. In heifers deficiencies often go unnoticed as they do not always have an immediate effect of performance. The problem is rarely noticed until it has an impact on health, growth and fertility.

For more information

For more details about heifer rearing and grazing heifers please contact your local account manager or contact our specialist Youngstock team here.