Heifer percentage

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Well-known member
Mar 25, 2017
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ne oklahoma
What percentage of your heifers do you try to keep as replacements , if any ? To maintain herd size only and not for expansion . Do you make your decision at weaning or wait for further development before breeding to make the call ? How much influence does market price at the time have on your decision, ie if you had a young herd and prices were high would they all grow wheels that season ? Or would you keep fewer than normal ?
My basis for replacements is to look at my mature cow group. If I have a heifer that offers qualities that are better than a cow in the group, I develope that heifer and cull the cow She will replace.

Market does not influence it. I have a herd ranging from 15 to 18. I estimate I will replace two cows per year.

I wait until they are about 10 months old.
No specific number or percentage. It depends on the individual. If hse is good enough to keep if I don;t want to keep her permanently there are popele that will gladly buy any heifers we have for sale.
Culling is a continuous process.
I try to factor the cattle price cycle into the culling decisions.
We still own 60% of last years heifers.
Depends on how many heifers we have in a given year. Whether I like the heifer and her lineage. Depends on her pelvic measurements. And how badly I need to cull the older cows. Current pricing is a consideration: would I be better off keeping her, selling as a feeder/replacement or selling as bred? Oftentimes, I make my decision immediately: currently have a heifer I am going to retain because she's the only heifer out of a top/fave cow. I hate her! But I'm going to keep her & force the love - if she's still a witch after weaning/breeding I can always sell.
All good answers and echo my thoughts. With 3yrs before you really know what kind of cow you're really going to have , it pays to be selective, especially spring born that you absolutely have to feed through 2 winters before any return . I just thought there should be some arbitrary goal that one would set, with variables of course. I think a fall calving herd might have a slight advantage with input cost in this respect , but a disadvantage in steer growth, so dang if you do or don't.
With my herd of 20-25, I find myself keeping about 3-4 heifers a year and that leaves a little room for growth, or for culling cows because of imperfections rather than outright flaws
A big time cattleman told me one time if you are culling like your supposed to you should be keeping 15% of your heifers for replacement. Me personally I think everything should be considered, I don't keep many when the price is high like it was in 2014, but kept more last year after the price decline. Like someone else said if she is good enough she stay's and I'll cull a cow regardless of the price.
I would think somebody with even moderate goals, would be selling/culling 10% of their herd per year. You start setting high standards, and that number is going to make a big jump. To off set a 10% cull, you would probably need to keep 25% of your heifers. 20%, may not keep up with losses. It's been my experience, that heifers and 1st and 2nd calf females is where a lot of culling takes place. Reproductive issues, and lost calves seem to haunt the young girls. Ages 5-12 don't give you as many problems.

Takes a pretty exceptional cow, for me to keep her past 10 years old. To keep her past 10, I'm probably keeping her just hoping for heifers. She brings a decent price, at 10, and goes a long way to paying for her replacement.

I've been chastised for that concept on here many times. I still stand by it though. If you have X amount of acres, and your going run say 100 cows year end, and year out, in my opinion , the economics of it is sound. You keep the age of your herd down, and the production up. Ideally cow, a cow should be around 15 years. Some ear, or some longhorn, could send that out to 20 years. But, if a cow isn't one of your absolute top producers, why not make room for that could possibly be?
We calve about 175 + cows a year, split into pretty much equal spring and fall calving. Have been getting 65-75% heifers, and it has nothing to do with particular bulls as we use 5-8 bulls, one bull per pasture or group and 10 to 40 per group depending on the pastures and conditions.
We do a 2 time culling of calves/heifers, sometimes 3 "look ats". First culling comes when we are ready to wean/ship calves. Disposition/attitude and confirmation, what ever reason we don't like them. Then the ones we like will get a 2nd look usually when they come off pasture or get moved for whatever reason. We keep about 15-20 from the first culling, maybe 8-15 from the second look at. So we keep somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 +/- per year .

There is little to no difference in the fall or spring born calves as we do not calve our heifers until they are about 27-30 months. So they all go through 2 winters before they have their first calf. Used to only calve heifers in the spring but have started calving a fall group; but want those calves on the ground before the first of Oct so they are growing good before the cold weather can affect their condition too much. Calves will get a little creep feeding, learning to come in through the creep gate to feed a couple of times a week, and take a little pressure off the first time heifers to provide all their nutrition.

Yes it also depends on the markets. The couple of years that heifers were in the $2.00 plus per pound range for 4-5 wts, we kept about half or maybe 7-10 per year. In fact one year we kept 4 and sent a couple that I liked but could not justify letting that much money sit in my pasture. I factored in who they were out of and the age of the momma cow and if it were likely she would still be around for a couple more calves, so a possibility of another heifer to keep.

We also buy and sell some cows, but overall we cull about 10% of the herd yearly...mostly due to age/ poor milking ability to raise a good calf that year..... or attitude, or lack of rebreeding.

We keep any cow that breeds and calves yearly and raises a decent calf until there is a problem. Many of our cows are in the 10-14 year range. Age is not a single factor for us for culling. It is one strike, but they have to either not milk and raise a good calf that year, or not breed back, or develop feet/leg problems...or something. I know one farmer that will sell cows regularly over 8-9 years old. I have bought many of them, and gotten 2-6 more calves out of them. And kept some of the heifers off them.

We are commercial, so a little different focus than a purebred or registered breeder. I also do some AI breeding, and have some dairy animals that I use as nurse cows. I lost an old cow with a 1 1/2 month old calf on her, the calf started stealing off 2 other cows who have their 2nd calves on them, so the 2 will raise the 3 calves. They all look good and should do okay. They were both very late in our spring group, so will get moved back into the fall group and will have a couple extra months to get their bodies in condition before the bulls go in in Nov., so raising the orphan should not hurt them.
One thing that @Bigfoot said, that I don't see so much, is that we don't have that much problem with the first calf heifers as far as reproductive issues or lost calves. Had 2 heifers out of 26 that did not breed last year. Worst that we have had in a long time. Normally only maybe have 1 out of 20-25 and often have 100% preg on the heifers. Lost 1 calf off a heifer 2 years ago, and grafted a calf on her and she has a real nice calf this year. Didn't lose any calves on the spring group this year or the fall group last year, just ready to calve this years fall group, due to start after the 25th of Aug. Had 4 get bred out of synch by a neighbors bull, got 2 on the ground, but they will go with the fall group since they weren't supposed to get bred to calve until this fall anyway. I haven't seen anymore problems with the heifers calving than the cows as a rule. Could be because we don't push them to calve quite as soon as many do, also am VERY CAREFUL about using easy calving bulls so the calves are smaller, 60 lbs or so, and they just pop them out and up they get and off they go. I feel our heifers do better as 30 month first time mommas, they seem to be a little more settled and are ready to be momma' s. Have 2 cows that I raised up from babies, pushing 16 and have had 13 calves like clockwork. I will sacrifice the extra 6 months or so in the beginning, to have cows that stick around longer.
Again, it is what works for us.
Heifer problems are varied and local.
We have few problems with retained heifers, and they cooperate if help is required.
We have many more problems with purchased heifers, and cooperators are a minority.
It is not so much that they are good or bad animals - - but how well they fit in our pasture calving system.
2016, I kept all my heifers (42) and turned 2 bulls in for 30 days. I ultra-sounded 35 days after removing bulls and had 100% bred. As winter moved on into Spring calving time, I wasn't so proud of the group. I had 4 abort at some point in time. University of Nebraska research says preg-checking heifers before 75 days can cause up to a 3.5% pregnancy loss due to the stress of handling. This year,I switched from Vista 5VL to Bovi-Shield Gold. Bovi-Shield is more expensive but has a much longer protection duration than Vista. This year, I kept back 23 heifers. One bull for 60 days. I will delay ultra-sounding until past the 75 day mark.
Wow, what a great bunch of responses , so much more than I expected , thank you all for the different points and information ! Our herd is at 15 now, all experienced ,between 3 and 6 mostly , but have a couple , and one is a fave, close to 10. So I definitely want to try and cultivate at least a couple a year if possible . In the past , I have had trouble with bought ones , don't need that again .
There are a million variables. It is not a one size fits all. I always look at how much cash flow I need year to year. That tells me how many animals I can take out of the pot. Then I catch how ever many I have and start culling.

Day 1 I cull based on looks and some times temperament. I've learned my lesson and there are certain animals I don't even attempt to calm down.

As the heifers develope I start deciding what I will keep and what I will sell. I get a value in my head of the general groups just in case. Again, I cull for temperament on any questionable I tried to mellow out.

I have a very high percentage of heifers that breed back and a very low percentage of calving problems. A decent percentage of these heifers are 3rd, 4th, or more generation animals so I know what I'm dealing with.

Lastly after they have their first calf I cull again. I've learned that how they raise their first calf determines how they will be going on. If they can't raise a solid first calf they don't get to stay.
chocolate cow....how old were the 16' heifer group bred at? 100% bred in 30 days is crazy fertile. What breed and BCS?

My good friend at White Oak Pastures, Will harris, flash breeds all his heifers for a little less than 30 days with plenty of bull power every year, but he has a good outlet for everybody that doesn't get bred. (direct market grass finished beef) Burke Teichert has been preaching this method for quite some time, based on how much more important fertility is to the bottom line than any other trait in the commercial herd. I have just started breeding heifers for 60 days, ultrasounding checking to date pregnancies, and keeping the earliest bred, selling the later breds and opens. That way i have a more valuable product. I'm breeding at 50-60% of mature weight in a forage only environment, so i have a higher percentage open, but I believe I am creating a more efficient and fertile cow herd for myself and my customers who buy replacements.
jdg":18ac9ds6 said:
My good friend at White Oak Pastures, Will harris, flash breeds all his heifers for a little less than 30 days with plenty of bull power every year, but he has a good outlet for everybody that doesn't get bred. (direct market grass finished beef) Burke Teichert has been preaching this method for quite some time, based on how much more important fertility is to the bottom line than any other trait in the commercial herd. I have just started breeding heifers for 60 days, ultrasounding checking to date pregnancies, and keeping the earliest bred, selling the later breds and opens.

Sounds like a good approach. What does it cost you to ultrasound?
I calve in March & April. This group would have been 13-14 months old when first exposed with them calving right at their two year old birth date. They are Angus. Older type genetics-Wye & Shoshone. I do my own ultra-sounding.
Utrasound costs around $5/hd, and palpation around $3.5/hd. I also work with Wye genetics, mostly stuff honed for the south by Ed Oliver, now Oliver Family Angus in West Point, Georgia. I also use a lot of Pinebank Angus genetics, and a tiny bit of Oldhe and Shoshone. This past year my commercial heifers developed entirely on forage were 80% bred (52 of 65)and 72% bred in first 35 days. Actually, palpation would have said 85%, but ultrasound picked up 3 heifers that had just lost pregnancies (no heartbeat). Still need to check my registereds. I was relatively pleased, considering the development program, but certainly see room for improvement.

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