Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

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.


Today’s successful dairy operation recognizes that heifers are an important investment in the future. They place high value on the heifer and regard it as a managed resource, whether raised on the farm or contract-grown. Unfortunately, on many farms, the dairy heifer is the most overlooked and undermanaged asset on the farm.

The main goal for managing replacement heifers is to freshen them between 22 and 24 months of age to reduce expenditures and to increase total milk production. This can be accomplished through good nutrition and sound animal management practices.

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Summary: In this article, Attica Veterinary Associates' Sam Leadley compares the nutrient needs of three sizes of heifers. He advises that for a 170-pound heifer to gain one pound a day in warm weather, she'll need to be eating between 3.5 and 4 pounds daily.

Because this article was so popular, we asked Sam Leadley a follow-up question:

Q: Why do you think this topic was of interest to producers in 2011?

A: I believe most of us have fallen into the trap of “same old, same old” when it comes to feeding grain to weaned calves. What we were doing in the ’90s we kept doing the next decade as well. Why change? Heifers were alive, reasonably healthy. And who is checking on rates of gain?

Underfeeding weaned heifers, primarily grain, is a silent thief. Letting these young heifers stand still or gain at a slow rate when their maintenance needs are low sets us up for having to pay for much more expensive gains later in life.

When farm managers become aware of the potential profits that can be claimed by a small change in management they often want to know the details. How will size of heifer determine feeding rate? Will weather make a difference? These are down-to-earth questions that managers want answered by practical articles in Progressive Dairyman.
—Sam Leadley, Calf Management Consultant, Attica Veterinary Associates

[See the full list of the Top 25 articles of 2011. See the list from 2010.]

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New research* from the Universities of Minnesota, Guelph and Saskatchewan indicates calves fed lacteal-derived (colostrum-derived) colostrum replacer experienced significantly better rates of acceptable passive transfer (APT), and higher serum total protein (STP) and IgG measures, as compared to calves fed plasma-derived colostrum replacers. Apparent efficiency of absorption rates also were higher for the colostrum-derived replacer.

In this study, 74 heifer calves were removed from their dams within 30-60 minutes of birth, and before suckling. The calves were randomly assigned to a colostrum-derived colostrum replacer (LAND O LAKES® Bovine lgG Colostrum), or a spray-dried plasma-derived colostrum product (Colostrx® 130 Colostrum Replacer).

*(Be sure to view the section below to learn a little more about the study from researcher Sandra Godden.)

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As the weather turns colder, your calves and heifers need more attention and care. Here are our top 10 picks for online resources you can rely on this winter:

Dairy Calf and Heifer Association
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Assocation's Learning Center is a great tool for discovering more information about the DCHA Gold Standards. And if you're not yet signed up for the DCHA Tip of the Week e-newsletter, you should be. The October 12, 2010 tip focused on winter bedding.

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This article was featured as one of our most popular calf and heifer raising articles. to jump to the article below.

Why is this 2010 article about the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin's Calf Care Connection workshops trending as a popular article?

We think it's because of the wet lab videos featured in it. Penn State's Dr. Jud Heinrichs presented examples of rumens from calves fed with different diets, each displaying different characteristics. Dr. Simon Peek of the University of Wisconsin – Madison shared tips and proper placement of pull chains for calving assistance. Each of these videos have received more than 1,000 views.

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An analysis was made from 993 individual calves used in 20 trials published in two U.S. peer-reviewed journals. Results of this analysis were presented at the Joint Annual Meetings of ADSA and ASAS, held recently in Denver, Colorado.

Each trial used Holstein calves that were initially 2 to 3 days old and on trial for eight weeks. All calves in these trials were housed and cared for individually in an unheated nursery in Ohio.

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