Calves and heifers are the next generation on the dairy farm and their health and management will strongly influence the future of the business.
Calf and heifer nutrition and feeding management needs to be the focus of all dairy producers and custom heifer growers for their replacement enterprise. Proper nutrition for age and stage of development will allow these animals to reach their maximum growth potential while minimizing health problems.
Penn State dairy extension has a wealth of information on calf and heifer nutrition. Resources for calves include publications on
- Feeding the newborn calf
- Heat stress
- Pasteurization of non-saleable milk
- Milk replacer options
- Early weaning strategies
- Electrolytes for calves, and
- Rumen development
There is also a complete section on colostrum, covering topics such as colostrum management tools, supplements and replacer, and pasteurization, in addition to several spreadsheet tools.
As calves mature into heifers, maintaining a efficient and effective feeding program that sees heifers growing to appropriate height and weight standards is essential, especially as heifers near breeding age. Heifer resources include:
- Tools for monitoring heifer growth
- Feeding management
- Housing recommendations
- Budget spreadsheets, and
- Heifer contracting fundamentals and example contracts
For someone considering a custom heifer growing business, the publication Agricultural Alternatives: Dairy Heifer
, lays out the foundation for starting this type of enterprise. Basic information regarding housing, nutrition, breeding, health programs, bio-security, local regulations to be aware of, and risk management issues are covered. The publication also provides several sample budgets that can be used for initial guidance while you research and develop your own budgets.