Replacement dairy heifers are a critical part of any dairy farm as they are the future of the herd and will set the standard for future production. For these animals to have the best chance at having a long and productive life in your herd, there needs to be a strong focus on the rearing of these animals so they can reach their potential. Frequent weighing of dairy heifers and comparison to target weights is critically important and should be a major component of every farm’s rearing plan.
The major targets to benchmark your heifers’ performance is at 6 months (30% of mature bodyweight), 15 months (60% of mature bodyweight) and 22 months (90% of mature bodyweight). Reaching these targets will give you the best chance of achieving good reproductive outcomes. Heifers that do not achieve these targets are going to have poorer reproductive performance in their first season and be more likely to be a late calver or empty after their first season. Their production will also be affected, as they are still trying to gain body weight to reach mature bodyweight during their first lactation.
The only way to know if your heifers are not reaching their target weights is to frequently weigh and record the weights of your heifers. Entering weights into MINDA allows you to track individual animals and rapidly identify animals that are not performing as well as expected. The earlier you can identify a problem, the easier it is to fix it and in fact the better the outcome. Trying to gain BCS and weight in animals once past puberty is less efficient than pre-puberty i.e. the same extra feed goes in for less gain.
If you would like further advice around getting your heifers to target weight or would like to have a custom youngstock plan created to get the most out of your heifers, talk to your Anexa vet.