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Calves & Heifers

The future of your herd depends on quality colostrum, milk or replacer feeding and disease control along with proper bedding, sanitation and ventilation.

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“Over the past decade, it’s now become common to have more replacement heifers than needed. Trying to balance those numbers all the time is not a simple equation,” says Leo Timms, dairy specialist and Morrill professor at Iowa State University.

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The goal of a properly designed ventilation system should be to provide clean, fresh air at all times for healthy calf development.

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“There’s always something to learn,” Sam Gardner, co-owner and farm manager of Gardner Heifers in Huddleston, Virginia, says. “If you’re going to be involved in any industry, you really need to be out on the forefront trying to learn what’s new. Like anything, if you get stuck in how it was always done in the past, and you’re not looking to see what’s out ahead of you, then you’re going to get left behind.”

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Raising replacement heifers is one of the largest investments made on a dairy. The costs associated with heifer raising can represent up to 20 percent of milk production costs, making this line item the second- or third-largest expense for an operation, after feed and possibly labor.

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Raising crossbred calves for the beef market requires intensive management with a focus on calf health and nutrition. Getting calves off to a good start, and getting them to grow well, necessitates providing a low-stress environment and feeding for gain.

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Raising replacement heifers is the second-highest cost to a dairy enterprise, making up nearly 20 percent of production costs. More than 15 percent of that total cost is incurred during the first two months of life, when milk replacer makes up a large portion of nutrient intake.

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