Heifer vs. Cow Milk Production

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Stocker Steve

Well-known member
May 2, 2005
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Central Minnesota
Back when I worked at a dairy we only expected about 20% of the low producing heifers to really turn up their milk production with a second calf. Are beef heifers any different?

I have a nice looking 1100# RA heifer that bred back right away but she has a small bag and her calf is below average... Maybe I could sell here to Kit!
I have seen some dramatic improvements in milk production between the first and second lactation, but you'd still be better off selecting those who milked the first time around.
They will definately milk better as a 3-year old, but, unless she is in really poor condition, it won't be that much difference. If she is thin, than she won't milk well at all. What body condition score is she?
You could faintly see her ribs when she calved.
The calf stood there and sucked for 4 days before it seemed there was any milk.
The calf is doing OK now at 4 months - - but it is about the same size as other hiefer calves that are a month younger.
Is this your only first calf heifer? If you have others, how does her condition NOW compare to them, and how does her calf compare to other first calf heifers size?
I'm a strong believer in the fact that they have to have enough milk to raise a GOOD calf. But, not seeing her condition, I would hate to just say ship her. Management plays a MAJOR role in milk production & rebreeding.
I have seen some improvements in cows from 2 to 3, and even from 3 to 4.

However, if she can't raise a GOOD calf as a 2 year old, more than likely she won't ever raise you a good calf down the line. And when I say good calf, I'm not talking strictly about weight. Does the calf look like it is receiving adequate nutrition, or does it look pot bellied, rough coat, and have that "dink" look to it.

Back in 2003 I bough a few Angus bred heifers. One of them had a blind quarter from the start. First 3 years her biggest calf weighed 398. I probably gave her 1 more attempt than I should have, because each of her first two calves had then "dink" look to them. Back when I first got into the cattle business and really knew what I was doing, I had a cow that raised about a 400 lb calf as a 2 and 3 year old. Her calves looked normal, just not quite as big. As a 4 year old, she raised my biggest calf at 700lbs. She went on to raise several more 600+ pound calves and I sold her when she was 12 as her production started to taper back off and she was wearing a little thin.
The heifers I raised were in good condition and have stayed there. They all have good calves except one - - she was letting another heifer (who grew wheels) suck and the calf has stayed a dink.
The poor miking heifer I bought 2 weeks before she calved, and her condition has stayed about the same - - a little thin.
Being that you bought her shortly before she calved, and that she was a bit on the thin side, I might give her a second chance. But, if she stays thin you may need to feed her up a bit.

What I have seen in my own herd is that heifers that cannot put 1.8 lbs/day on their calf usually do not improve enough on their subsequent calves to make it worth keeping them around. Now, that is especially true, with the cost of feed, and the price of calves. We cull out any heifers that have a low (below 1.8 lbs/day) ADG on their calves. I am sure that we cull out the odd heifer that would go on to have decent calves, but from experience I think that for every 10 poor ones, you might cull 1 decent one.

1.8 lbs/day works out to be about a 430-450 lb (depending on BW)calf at 205 days. At current prices (here), for a steer you would see about $480 (CDN) for the calf, for a heifer you would see about $420(CDN). The way I have it figured, it is going to cost me $450(CDN) to keep that cow for a year, just in feed alone. So to me it just doesn't work to keep a cow that is not raising, or isn't likely to raise a calf that is OVER 500 lbs.

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