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Heifer Feeding and Management

The age of heifers at their first calving has profound impact on the total costs of raising heifers. This article examines what is happening to age at first calving in Pennsylvania Holsteins based on DHI data.

Improving feed efficiency in heifers can be accomplished by increasing diet digestibility, increasing forage fiber (NDF) digestibility, stimulating rumen microbial digestion, optimizing—not maximizing—feed intake, maintaining the animal in an adequate environment, maintaining the heifer in optimal health and management, and maintaining optimal growth rates.

Provided the level of intake is restricted to allow for an optimal level of ADG, high concentrate, precision-fed rations can be fed to dairy heifers successfully. Precision feeding heifers has the potential to reduce feed costs, reduce nutrient excretion, and increase feed efficiency without compromising heifer growth or future lactation performance.

Les remplacements des vaches laitières sont les fondations de toute entreprise laitière. L’amélioration du troupeau laitier est possible lorsque les vaches de réforme sont remplacées par des génisses de deux ans bien alimentées, saines, génétiquement supérieures et bien conduites.

Nuevos conceptos en los requerimientos de nutrientes para el crecimiento y estimación de los requerimientos de nutrientes de animales en crecimiento.

Summary of a variety of design suggestions useful when planning calf and heifer housing systems for Holstein dairy cattle. This information provides a starting point for the design process.

Summary of a variety of design suggestions useful when planning calf and heifer housing systems for Jersey dairy cattle. This information provides a starting point for the design process.

Microsoft Excel, 90.8 kB

The Penn State Dairy Heifer Diet Formulator (PSU-HDF) encourages an approach to heifer feeding that is driven by the desire to precisely meet metabolizable energy (ME) and nitrogen needs of growing dairy heifers while allowing farmers to meet their desired goals for growth, age at first breeding, age at first calving, and first lactation production. This spreadsheet allows you to choose feeds from the library or enter the composition of feeds on your farm, then balance a diet to meet a targeted growth rate.

Typically dairy heifers derive the majority of their nutrition from forages as opposed to concentrates. However, there is inefficiency with this method of feeding. Replacing forage dry matter with concentrates offers potential to improve the efficiency of heifer feeding, while maintaining similar rates of gain and reducing excretion of manure and nutrients. This article describes a series of experiments conducted by researchers at Penn State and the University of Wisconsin to evaluate these feeding strategies.

Dairy replacements are the foundation of any dairy enterprise. Improvement of a herd is possible when culled cows are replaced by well fed, healthy, genetically superior, and properly managed 2-year-old heifers. This article addresses aspects of a successful rearing program for replacement heifers.