Farm Progress

Dailey Discussions: Bought bred heifers are still growing; eating for two takes high-quality feed.

December 12, 2017

2 Min Read
NUTRITION MATTERS: Less feed does not equate to calving ease. Feeding poor-quality forage will not provide the energy the heifer needs to push out her first calf and produce milk. Make sure to keep heifers away from mature cow herds to allow them access to hay and feed without a bossy cow nearby.Jackie Nix/iStock/Thinkstock

By Duane Dailey

Bred heifers can't be dumped into a cow herd on poor winter pasture and fed 3-year-old hay bales. They need their own feed bunk and best-tested hay.

Proven heifers bought into a cow herd are worth premium prices. They take a whack at the nationally reported 20% death loss at calving. They shorten calving seasons from 90 days to two weeks.

Calving ease earns attention, but there's more. Heifers bring genetic potential for high-quality beef. Prime grade beef is our future.

Cow owners learn from buyers of the University of Missouri Show-Me-Select replacement heifers. The 2017 fall-sale buyers paid about $2,000 per head, on average. Repeat buyers bid best.

Heifers need management
There’s a catch. Heifers brought home must be managed. They should wear stickers: “Baby Calf On Board: Herd Profit Future.”

Eric Bailey, new to Mizzou from New Mexico, praises MU’s potential. As University of Missouri Extension’s nutritionist, he teaches feeding, starting with basics. High-quality feed and good intake are key. That’s more vital than elusive magic minerals.

Replacement heifers eat for two — -and grow. Give her good feed and water and basic animal husbandry, Bailey says.

On presale looks at Show-Me-Select sales, I’m impressed. These heifers look like cows. They’re not; they’re still growing.

Heifer protocols add value
Twenty years ago when Dave Patterson, state beef specialist, brought heifer development to MU Extension he dispelled a myth. You can’t starve calving ease into a heifer. Calving-ease EPDs and pre-breeding exams make calving ease. It takes genetics and care.

Many problems are solved at pre-breeding. Measuring pelvic size cuts death loss at birth. Palpation for reproductive tract scores boosts pregnancy rates.

State has herd feed needs
Listen to Bailey: he sees the potential. Missouri grows high-quality forages and has byproduct feeds. He used the weekly feed report on MU Ag Electronic Bulletin Board (AgEBB) before he came to Missouri. Those feeds come from biofuel refining. Beef herds benefit.

Dailey is a retired MU Extension professor. He writes from his home in Columbia, Mo.

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