Proper nutrition and management of heifers can mean productive cows in the future

There is an increased interest in shortening the breeding season for heifers. When you consider how much more economically efficient it is to have heifers that breed in 30 to 55 days, this management practice makes a lot of sense.

“The use of a shorter breeding season is a great way to select those heifers that are more likely to go on to make great, reproductively efficient, longer lasting cows for your breeding herd,” University of Missouri Livestock Field Specialist Andy McCorkill said. “I like to see the inclusion of a pre-breeding exam as a component of the selection criteria ahead of the breeding season to better narrow down those problem free heifers. That is the cornerstone of the MU Show Me Select Heifer development program.” Another excellent benefit of managing for a shorter breeding season is that it gives females a significantly longer post-partum interval to prepare them for the next bull exposure.

While heifers can be less maintenance in the long run, they do require thoughtful management for this strategy to be a success.

“The idea of shortening up the breeding season for the heifers is to let ‘natural selection’ help you select the early maturing, more reproductively sound animals to keep as replacements. Under this guide, you wouldn’t do much more in the way of management than is normal practice for the mature cow herd,” McCorkill said. “We have to take into account the growth of the heifer as well as the calf we hope she is carrying, so she still needs a little TLC.”

“Many times, we focus on heifer develop from weaning to breeding, thereafter, we treat these females like mature cows which can set them up for future failure, especially if calving heifers as 2-year olds,” University of Arkansas Ruminant Nutrition Specialist Dr. Shane Gadberry said. “We need these females to continue to grow from breeding to first calving. The general recommendation is to have females weighing 85 percent of their expected mature weight by calving. Many producers won’t know what that mature weight will be. To go from target of 65 percent of mature weight for breeding to 85 percent for calving is not a difficult task when you have 9 months to get it done.”

Giving heifers some quality extra groceries will aid them in their development and that of their unborn calf.

“A little bit of supplemental nutrition from weaning and breeding can help increase your odds of success and ideally, the heifer herd would be managed separately from the mature cows and given the best quality, more vegetative pasture, perhaps a small amount of high quality hay or other forage source, or a grain byproduct based supplement,” McCorkill advised.

“While we don’t fully understand fetal programming (fetal programming is a theory which suggests that the environment surrounding the fetus during its developmental phase, plays a seminal role in determining its disease risk during the later stages), dam nutrition not only influences her ability to conceive and rebreed after calving but also the develop of the her calf before and after birth,” Gadberry saud.

Gadberry recommends keeping good herd records to track performance of first-calf, short-bred heifers to identify any management issues that need corrected, and to create a solid health and nutrition program to keep them at optimum performance.

Klaire HowertonFarm Helpbenefits,nutrition,productive cows,shorter breeding seasonProper nutrition and management of heifers can mean productive cows in the future There is an increased interest in shortening the breeding season for heifers. When you consider how much more economically efficient it is to have heifers that breed in 30 to 55 days, this management practice makes a...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma