Developing heifers takes time, patience and a good plan.
Some producers will hire someone else to take on the task, while others do the deed themselves. That takes careful planning, says Randie Culbertson, Extension beef specialist with Iowa State University.
She says genetics play a big role in selection. Traits such as docility and structural soundness are important.
Nutrition is also a factor, Culbertson says.
“You need to get her to puberty, and once she’s bred, to calve successfully,”she says.
Culbertson says most recommend that heifers reach 60 to 65% of their mature weight before being bred, adding some recent research suggests 50% may be sufficient.
She says heifers should have a body condition score of 4 to 6, and cautions that over-conditioned heifers could have problems with breeding.
Pelvic measurements can also help dictate which heifers stay in the herd, Culbertson says.
People are also reading…
“Pelvic measurements should not be a culling decision or a selection decision,” she says. “You want to make sure you are culling the bottom percentage of heifers.”
Heat synchronization protocols should also be in place, Culbertson says, adding equipment needs to be in good working condition prior to A.I.
A calving ease bull should also be a priority.
“You don’t want a train wreck during calving season,” Culbertson says. “Dystocia could keep her away from a lifetime of productivity.”
There are several heifer development programs available to producers in the Midwest. One of those is the Show-Me-Select program operated by University of Missouri Extension, which is now in its 25th year.
The program, which is open to producers in Missouri, features a rigid set of enrollment requirements, and culminates in a sale at several sites around the state.
“Our livestock specialists work closely with those in the program,” says Erin Larimore, senior research specialist and Show-Me-Select database coordinator. “They will be there to collect data.”
Requirements involve specific components such as genetics, vaccinations and a pre-breeding evaluation. A complete guide to the program is online at bit.ly/3NGt7b0.
Larimore says roughly 2,000 head are enrolled in the spring program, with another 3,000 enrolled in the fall program.
“We have a lot of repeat buyers because they like the program and what it does for the heifers,” she says. “Interest kind of mimics the cattle cycle. When prices are high, you see more interest. We have a lot of people who have been with us since the program started 25 years ago.”