Replacement heifer losses blamed on poor management
OVER one-third of heifer replacements are lost between birth and the end of their first lactation, and more emphasis on rearing management is needed, according to a newly published report.
About 22% of replacement heifers are lost before they reach their first lactation, and a further 14% culled during the first lactation, according to Understanding the rearing of dairy heifers, produced by NMR, University of Reading, the British Cattle Veterinary Association and Fort Dodge Animal Health.
Infertility and poor growth rates are the main reasons for culling heifers before their first calving – and fertility difficulties account for half of the heifers culled in their first lactation.
"These losses are criminally high," says report author Dick Esslemont. Poor management is at fault, he says. Heifers are potentially the highest genetic potential animals on the farm but are often abandoned for their first two years with minimal management input.
Dr Esslemont suggests giving as much priority to the feeding and management of replacement heifers as that which is given to milking cows.
Understanding the rearing of dairy heifers is available from NMR marketing on (01249-467290).