Did you know that growing heifers well to calve at two years will save on feed and management costs?
1. Feed. It’s cheaper to put weight on heifers earlier, that’s a proven fact simply due to feed conversion efficiency (FCE) being optimum in young animals.
Heifer replacement FCE is highest in the first eight weeks of life after which it rapidly tails off. In the first two weeks, 100g of feed will give approximately 50g – 60g of growth, thereafter it dramatically falls during the first 12 months of life at which point 100g feed will only give approximately 9g of growth. The following graph clearly shows these trends.
Heifer feed efficiency
*(Average daily gain) / (dry matter intake) x100
Feeding for growth has also proved to be cost effective according to study results from the Institute of Research and Technology in Agrifood (IRTA). To achieve average age at first calving at 23 months and a body weight of 650kg, feeding a total six litres of milk per day to weaning at two months resulted in the lowest total rearing feed costs. Heifers fed four litres during the same period had some catching up to do later on when FCE is lower. The following table logs the study results.
Milk volume fed and the impact on total heifer rearing costs
(calving 23 months, 650kg body weight)
|Volume milk fed (l/day) during first two months||Average weight gain during first two months (kg/day)||Total rearing feed cost (£)|
2. Management: if you are optimising your heifers’ early growth, then there is every chance this will lead to reduced time spent feeding and managing them in the service to calving period. Furthermore, calving them in to the herd sooner, helps to maintain a compact calving pattern, particularly in seasonal block calving herds.