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Monitoring Heifer Growth

Monitoring height and weight of calves and heifers is essential to tracking the progress of each animal throughout the heifer-rearing period. Although we can readily spot fat and thin heifers, it is difficult to look at a heifer and determine if her height and weight are appropriate for her age. With just a few objective measurements, tracking heifer performance becomes much easier.

Customized Dairy Heifer Growth Chart

A new spreadsheet from Penn State (2013) that uses mature size and herd goals for age at first calving to generate a growth chart, meaning heifer performance is compared to the growth required to meet herd goals, not to a breed standard.

Traditionally, heifer growth has been compared to breed standards to determine ‘normal’ progress. However, this type of comparison is not useful if the group of heifers you want to monitor happen to be genetically programmed to be larger or smaller than breed average or if there is considerable variation in the genetics within a group of heifers. Crossbred heifers can be a bit of a challenge to benchmark as well, because they fall between the standards for the breeds of their sires and dams. We also know that certain physiological changes (such as the start of puberty) happen not because a heifer reaches a particular weight, but because she has matured to a certain proportion of her final mature size and body composition.

For these reasons, recommendations for heifer growth benchmarks based on the mature size of the animal were adopted in the 2001 Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. If we know the mature size of a heifer and her current size, it is a relatively simple matter to figure out what growth rate we need to achieve to move from the current size to the mature size, or to benchmark times in between, such as breeding. We have developed a new growth tracking spreadsheet that automates these calculations and can generate a customized growth curve for an individual herd based on that herd’s goal for age at first calving and the mature size of animals in the herd. Using this tool, you will be able to tell at every step of the way whether heifers are on track to calve at the right size and age, eliminating the delay that comes with not measuring heifer performance until first calving.

The spreadsheet assumes a target body weight of 55% of mature weight at first conception and 85% of mature weight after first calving, as cited in the 2001 Dairy NRC. Height targets are assumed to be 55% of mature height at birth and 96% of mature height at first calving; 50% of height growth from birth to calving is assumed to occur between birth and 6 months with an additional 25% between 6 and 12 months and the final 25% between 12 months and calving. These targets were derived from a comparison of heifer growth data from all breeds to mature heights calculated by assuming mature body weight and using the relationship between withers height and body weight determined by Heinrichs et al., 1992 (Journal of Dairy Science 75:3576-3581) and from Kertz et al., 1998 (Journal of Dairy Science 81:1479-1482). Withers and hip height are assumed to change at the same rate throughout the growing period, meaning either one can be used to monitor growth as long as the same measurement is used for heifers and mature cows. Mature size of cows can be entered as a herd average or individually for each heifer's dam.

Note

Modified February 20, 2015 to give users greater flexibility for the pre-weaning ADG calculation. Goals for heifer height were updated August 27, 2013.

Microsoft Excel, 79.9 kB

Enter the average body weight and height of third lactation cows in your herd, average birth weight of calves, average services per conception for heifers, and the goal for age at first calving. From this information a customized growth chart is generated, allowing you to track heifer performance against the growth required to meet your goals. The customized growth goals are presented in table form, as well as in graphs for height and weight (using inches and pounds) and a graph of the percent of mature size. Users can plot growth data from heifers on these graphs to compare individual heifer performance to the goals. UPDATED: Added flexibility for pre-weaning ADG calculation on February 20, 2015. Height goals updated August 27, 2013.

Microsoft Excel, 78.4 kB

Enter the average body weight and height of third lactation cows in your herd, average birth weight of calves, average services per conception for heifers, and the goal for age at first calving. From this information a customized growth chart is generated. The customized growth goals are presented in table form, in graphs for height and weight (using cm and kg), and in a graph of the percent of mature size. Users can plot growth data from heifers on these graphs to compare individual heifer performance to the goals. All measurements and graphs are presented in metric units.

Microsoft Excel, 160.3 kB

Calcola un grafico di crescita personalizzata basata sul peso corporeo medio e sulle altezze delle bovine in terza lattazione della vostra mandria, il peso medio alla nascita dei vitelli, il numero di inseminazioni medio per gravidanza per le manze e l'obiettivo di età al primo parto. Unità metrica. Lingua italiana.

Microsoft Excel, 79.0 kB

Calcula una curva de crecimiento personalizada basada en el peso corporal promedio y la altura de las vacas de la tercera lactancia de su hato, el peso promedio de los terneros al nacer, el promedio de los servicios por concepción de las vaquillas y su edad objetivo al primer parto. Unidades métricas.

Growth Monitor Excel Spreadsheets

A series of spreadsheets that allow comparisons of heifer growth to breed standards. These spreadsheets are designed to provide flexible options for monitoring heifer growth.

This article describes how to use and interpret the Growth Monitor series of spreadsheets.

Microsoft Excel, 205.6 kB

Use this spreadsheet to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date. A 2016 update allows breed and units of measurement to be selected from drop down menus.

Microsoft Excel, 421.5 kB

Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple calves to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date. This is the same as the "heifer" spreadsheet, except the scale of the graphs has been modified for younger animals.

Microsoft Excel, 95.3 kB

Use this file to compare growth of an individual animal to recommended breed standards over her lifetime. A 2016 update allows breed and units of measurement to be selected from drop down menus.

Microsoft Excel, 209.9 kB

Use this file to chart the growth of multiple animals at a specific age over a period of time. This information differs from information gleaned from comparing the graphed results of two measurement dates. If the two graphs are compared, information about growth at specific ages over time can be seen. However, the advantage of the two-graph method is that management and feeding changes also can be detected and evaluated. A 2016 update allows breed and units of measurement to be selected from drop down menus.

Microsoft Excel, 425.5 kB

Measurements in this version use metric units. Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date.

Microsoft Excel, 284.0 kB

Measurements in this version use metric units. Choose this file to compare growth of an individual animal to recommended breed standards over her lifetime.

Microsoft Excel, 209.9 kB

Utilice está hoja de cálculo para proporcionar de manera instantánea una comparación entre las vaquillas múltiples con los estándares de la raza en una sola fecha de medición. La actualización de 2016 permite que la raza y las unidades de medidas sean seleccionadas de menús desplegables.

Microsoft Excel, 353.0 kB

Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date.

Microsoft Excel, 328.0 kB

Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple calves to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date. This is the same as the "heifer" spreadsheet, except the scale of the graphs has been modified for younger animals.

Microsoft Excel, 260.0 kB

Choose this file to compare growth of an individual animal to recommended breed standards over her lifetime.

Microsoft Excel, 348.5 kB

Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date.

Microsoft Excel, 263.0 kB

Choose this file to compare growth of an individual animal to recommended breed standards over her lifetime.

Microsoft Excel, 348.5 kB

Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date.

Microsoft Excel, 263.5 kB

Choose this file to compare growth of an individual animal to recommended breed standards over her lifetime.

Microsoft Excel, 348.0 kB

Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date.

Microsoft Excel, 260.0 kB

Choose this file to compare growth of an individual animal to recommended breed standards over her lifetime.

Microsoft Excel, 348.5 kB

Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date.

Microsoft Excel, 260.0 kB

Choose this file to compare growth of an individual animal to recommended breed standards over her lifetime.

Microsoft Excel, 109.2 kB

Calculates ADG between two measurement dates for multiple animals. This file is appropriate for all breeds.

PDF, 210.9 kB

Russian translation of the manual describing operating and interpretation procedures for the core files in the series for each breed.

Microsoft Excel, 394.0 kB

Russian language version with metric units of measurement. Choose this file to provide a snapshot comparing multiple heifers to recommended breed standards on a single measurement date.

Printable Growth Charts

These growth charts may be printed and used to plot heifer growth compared to a breed standard. Each file contains a graph of recommended body weight and withers height as well as a table listing the recommended range by month of age.

Printable growth chart for Holstein heifers. Includes a graph with recommended body weight and withers height as well as a table with recommendations for each month of age.

Printable growth chart for Jersey heifers. Includes a graph with recommended body weight and withers height as well as a table with recommendations for each month of age.

Printable growth chart for Brown Swiss heifers. Includes a graph with recommended body weight and withers height as well as a table with recommendations for each month of age.

Printable growth chart for Guernsey heifers. Includes a graph with recommended body weight and withers height as well as a table with recommendations for each month of age.

Printable growth chart for Ayrshire heifers. Includes a graph with recommended body weight and withers height as well as a table with recommendations for each month of age.

Printable growth chart for Milking Shorthorn heifers. Includes a graph with recommended body weight and withers height as well as a table with recommendations for each month of age.