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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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Recently, interest has increased in feeding high levels of milk replacer to calves as research has indicted that greater levels of milk replacer increase pre-weaning average daily gain and future milk production.

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“There’s certainly no market right now for dairy heifers. Good Holstein bulls are still making some money,” said Mike Baker, beef extension specialist at Cornell University, at the recent New York Beef Producers’ Association annual conference.

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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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