We talk frequently about the groups of animals on the farm who are high risk; young calves and fresh cows. However, there are some key points to remember with growing heifers that you don’t want to miss. While these heifers often are not the “squeaky wheel” on the farm, give them a little attention as they are the future of your farm.

1. Low stress = Excellent Response to Vaccination

Heifers from four months of age to two months pre-calving generally lead a low stress life. They eat, rest, and grow. Give them good nutrition, clean water, bedding, and shelter and they will thrive. There is no better time to vaccinate heifers to develop baseline immunity for a variety of diseases. They are probably very healthy so resist the temptation to not vaccinate them. The immunity they start to develop now will be the basis for the vaccines you give them as adults.

2. Weight vs Stature

In the first six months of a calf’s life, she will have 50% of her lifetime height growth and 25% of her lifetime weight gain. Weight gain is linear during the first 24 months of age, so if she is set back on weight gain because of a nutrition or health event, she can compensate and make that weight back. However, height gain is not linear. By one year of age, she will be 75% of her adult height. If she is stunted in growth between birth and one year of age, she will never regain her full frame potential.

3. You are what you eat

Heifer feed quality is important even though they are more forgiving than lactating cows. Be careful of fines in the calf grower feed and consider how much hay and in what form is the best for the calves. The round bale feeder may be easy for management but how much hay is wasted and could the heifers perform better if on a TMR or ground hay? Bunk space is still important in heifer pens, especially if acclimating to headlocks or if there are multiple size heifers in the same pen.

4. Wind, flies, and mud

Weather conditions will affect feed efficiency and growth of heifers. Provide wind breaks and adequate bedding on bed packs. Remember fly control in the heifer yards as biting flies will decrease performance and damage teat ends.
Give the heifers on your farm a little TLC and enjoy the rewards of your hard work when they freshen with a healthy calf and transition into a profitable cow!

Leave a Reply