by: Ted G. Dyer
UGA Ext. Animal Scientist, Beef Cattle

When purchasing a bred heifer as a replacement breeding female, consider several factors. These factors could include: Age, Breed, Health, Genetic Make-up, Reproductive Efficiency, Uniformity, Visual Attributes, and Management Background. The more information available on the heifer will help with the challenge in determining which young heifer will make the most productive replacement cow. The objective is to identify heifers that will conceive early in the breeding season, calve easily, provide adequate milk consistent with the feed supply, wean heavy calves, and make a desirable genetic contribution to the calves' post weaning growth and carcass merits.

Let's discuss the factors to consider in purchasing bred heifers:

Age: Select heifers that breed early in the breeding season, those heifers will usually continue to calf early throughout their life. Heifers should be bred to calve by 24 months of age. Heifers are selected on the basis that they become pregnant early in life primarily for economic reasons.

Breed: Selecting a breed usually involves personal preferences. When selecting a breed or combination of breeds, consider color and markings, shape of head, presence or absence of horns, set of ears, body shape, and size. More than 250 breeds of cattle are recognized worldwide, and several hundred other varieties and types have not been identified with a breed name.

Health: Productive animals are typically in excellent health. It is very important to review the heifers health records, which should include vaccinations, PI/BVD (Persistently Infected/ Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus) test results, and deworming schedule. Buy only from known sources and request health papers, especially when purchasing heifers in a sale and transporting across state lines.

Genetic Make-up: Review the heifers' actual performance data (weights and ratios). If available, look at individual or sire EPD's (Expected Progeny Differences), genome profile (DNA), and status of potential genetic defects. If known, review the heifers' pedigree, especially if the sire is registered or the dam's sire is registered.

Reproductive Efficiency: Reproductive performance has the highest economic importance of all the economically important traits. If available, review the heifers' pelvic measurement at or near breeding, reproductive tract maturity score prior to breeding, target weight (reach 65 percent of their mature weight by 15 months of age), and know their breeding status and how they were confirmed pregnant.

Uniformity: Select for an optimum combination of maternal traits to maximize profitability. Consider mature cow size, frame score, color, and type in keeping purchased heifers uniform.

Visual Attributes: A visual appraisal of the heifer will help in predicting the length of their productive life. Make sure the heifer is structurally sound on their feet and legs, show signs of proper udder development, do not have eye problems, seem to have proper fleshing ability, and have adequate disposition (handles quietly, relatively gentle).

Management Background: Review how the heifer was managed and developed prior to breeding. When choosing replacement heifers, consider heifers that were developed with sound genetics, proper nutrition, good health, and efficient reproduction.

There will be several excellent opportunities this spring to purchase quality bred heifers. Keep in mind these important factors when you go to purchase that bred heifer. Remember to avoid purchasing mismanaged or under developed heifers, they will cost a loss of time and money to your beef operation. Good luck purchasing those quality bred heifers.

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