Long-term planning: Ensuring the future of your dairy herd

Long-term planning has now become a crucial part of farming. Some examples include: planning feed requirements for the winter; paddocks to be reseeded; and fertiliser requirements for the farm.

Without doubt one of the most important plans on a dairy farm is having a feed plan to ensure heifers to calve down at 24 months.

The net cost of rearing a replacement heifer on your farm is estimated to be approximately €1,500/head as per Teagasc.

A heifer that calves down at 30 months will cost the farmer an extra €400/head for that delay of six months; these costs spiral out of control when you start looking at multiples so, therefore, it’s important to keep to a firm plan.

Achieving the target weights at critical stages for each breed during the first two years of life will go a long way to ensuring lower rearing costs and maximising the future performance of your replacement heifers.

Dairy farmers aim to calve heifers down at 24 months-of-age; however, this target should not be set in stone. It is possible to have them calving down earlier if the heifers are at appropriate weights and body condition at mating.

The target weight at breeding is 55–60% of mature weight with a minimum body condition score (BCS) of 3.25.

Strategies need to put in place for when dry cows are turned out to grass to prevent milk fever

Heifer rearing plan

For all of the reasons listed above, Quinns of Baltinglass Ltd has put together a heifer rearing plan broken into six different stages, to ensure maximum growth rates during these crucial feeding periods.

Stage 1: Young calf (0-3 months):

  • Avoid rumen upset;
  • Feed quality compound feed (feed efficiency is very high in the young calf with 100 grams of feed giving 50–60 grams of growth);
  • Close observation of calf for the first few weeks to ensure calf health;
  • Feed high concentrations of milk powder;
  • Ensure there is a proper vaccination program in place;
  • Ample supply of good-quality colostrum (10% of birth weight);
  • Heifer rearing plan (0–24 months).

Metabolic programming in calves promotes high levels of growth in the first three months, which results in better mammary development, higher milk production and reduced age at first calving.

Stage 2: First grazing (3-9 months):
  • Feed 1-2kg of 20% Supreme Heifer Rearer ration/pellet when grazing high-quality grass;
  • Increased feeding rate of ration to 3kg when grass quality deteriorates;
  • House heifers if grass quality/availability does not support sufficient daily liveweight gain.

The target at Stage 2 is to achieve 40% of the mature weight at nine months-of-age; to achieve this target animals need to achieve a daily liveweight gain of 0.8kg.

Stage 3: First housing (9–13 months):

  • Analyse your silage or other on-farm fodder;
  • Balance your on-farm fodder accordingly with concentrates;
  • Heifer health is essential at housing to ensure optimal parasite control, etc. at housing.

The target weight is 50% of the mature weight at 12 months and once again to achieve this target the animal must continue gaining 0.8kg per day.

Stage 4: Breeding (13–15 months):

  • Ensure the heifers graze very high-quality grass;
  • Feed 1- 3kg/head/day of 20% Supreme Heifer Rearer ration/pellet (depending on grass quality and weight of heifers);
  • It is essential that the heifers are kept on a rising plane of nutrition during the breeding season;
  • Scan heifers at the end of the breeding season.

Target weight at the end of Stage 4 is 55-60% of mature weight and animals must gain approx 0.85kg/head/day. Constant monitoring is the key from here on; over the nine-month pregnancy it would be very easy for the heifer’s weight gain to go unchecked.

It is essential that weights are checked every few months so that the heifer can be brought in on target. Forage quality has a big bearing on growth rates and meal feeding requirements. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Stage 5: Second grazing:

  • Grass alone will suffice once it is of good quality and in ample supply;
  • If grass supply is in tight supply or quality is poor supplement with some concentrate.

Target weight gain during the second grazing period is 0.75kg/head/day and the heifer should be 80% of mature weight at calving.

Stage 6: Second winter:
  • Analyse your silage and other on-farm fodder;
  • Balance your on-farm fodder accordingly with concentrates;
  • Important to feed a pre-calver mineral at least six-weeks pre-calving;
  • Animal health needs close attention at housing – ensure parasite control is optimal (seek veterinary advice). 

The target weight at calving down is 90% of mature weight and all heifers should be a BCS of 3.25–3.5.

Supreme Heifer Rearer

Quinns of Baltinglass Ltd has formulated the Supreme Heifer Rearer in both pellet and ration form, specifically for this plan and to ensure replacements are given the best possible chance of reaching target weight at 24 months.

There are other factors contributing to liveweight gain but proper nutrition has a crucial role to play.

The Supreme Heifer Rearer is 20% protein and contains a high level of soya bean meal which is important to maximise growth rates during this period.

The Supreme Heifer Rearer is formulated by the company nutritionist to the highest possible specification as shown below:

Tullamore Show

Quinns of Baltinglass Ltd. technical sales team will be attending the Tullamore Show this Sunday, August 11, 2019. The company stand will be in the livestock area – stand L15 and L17.

For any visitors to the stand there will be an opportunity to win 1t of compound feed.

If you have any further questions on Quinns heifer rearing plan, or any questions on ruminant nutrition, please don’t hesitate to visit the stand on the day and get advice from one of the technical sales team; or contact Quinns on: 059-6481266; or go online to: www.quinns.ie.