Consistency key to successful heifer rearing

The best approach to heifer nutrition is to be consistent and focused, according to ForFarmers’ Ann Coombes. Speaking at a recent youngstock road show, she said that splitting calf rearing into three key stages – between six and 12 months, 13 and 17 months, and 17 and 23 months old – was key to optimising growth rates. “Each phase has different dry matter, energy, and protein requirements,” she said. “Correct nutrition at every stage is vital to ensure heifers reach their target weights, and calve for the first time at between 22 and 24 months old.


She added that consistency is also vital. “High-protein and energy-dense forages should not be reserved for milkers. Regular silage-quality testing is essential to help account for fluctuations, and ensure heifers are not being over or under fed during each stage.”

She stressed that it is also important to consider other factors that contribute to heifer health. “Providing a low-stress environment with good airflow, and access to clean and fresh water, will also help producers to meet growth targets.

Measure regularly to monitor growth

Measuring heifers regularly to monitor growth and performance is key to youngstock rearing success and ensuring they calve for the first time at between 22 and 24 months old. So says ForFarmers’ Eliza Boyce, who outlined the rising total cost of heifer rearing and the economic implications of missing this target. “With input costs continuing to increase, efficient heifer rearing is more important than ever,” says Miss Boyce. “The saying ‘what gets measured gets managed’ should be applied to youngstock management.”

Regularly monitoring performance from birth and throughout the rearing period will help to ensure heifers are achieving growth targets, and any checks in performance can be rectified early.

Miss Boyce says that, as a minimum, heifers should be weighed at birth, regularly during milk feeding, after weaning, at nine months old, and again at around 13 months of age.

Ann C RPR1728