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How Much Dry Matter For Heifer Rearing Success?

04 February 2014

Dry matter intake is influenced by dietary fibre and decreases as body weight goes up is the lesson to be learned form leading US dairy advisers.

Predicting the dry-matter intake of dairy heifers is an important part of heifer nutrition programs, but it can be challenging to estimate for a number of reasons, write Professor Pat Hoffman and K Kester, University Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dairy Science. 

Recently, University of Wisconsin researchers collected more than 9,000 heifer pen dry-matter intakes. The data, collected at the Integrated Dairy Research Facility at the University of Wisconsin, shed new light on the dry-matter intakes of heifers under commercial rearing conditions. The study involved Holstein and Holstein x Jersey crossbred heifers. The researchers present their ?ndings in a new publication, "Estimating Dry Matter Intake of Dairy Heifers."

Two notable ?ndings from the study are:

  • Heifer dry-matter intake as a percent of body weight decreases as body weight increases, but the relationship is not a straight line.

The researchers illustrate this ?nding in this two-page publication. They also provide an equation that can be used to estimate the dry-matter intake of dairy heifers as a percent of body weight.

  • Dry-matter intake is in?uenced by dietary ?ber

During the study, dairy heifers consumed a nearconstant 1 percent of their body weight as neutral detergent fiber (NDF). This finding is important, say the researchers, because heifers consuming low-NDF diets (corn silage) will eat more feed than heifers consuming high-NDF diets such as straw and mature forages.

Contract Essentials for Raising Dairy Heifers

Raising dairy heifers until they are ready to enter the milking herd is a substantial investment, so having a clear, detailed contract is important to outline the responsibilities and expectations of both parties, writes Professor Tamilee Nennich.

The Purdue University extension dairy specialist writes that when writing a contract, one of the first details that need to be determined is how long the heifers will be raised and what stage or stages of growth the contract will cover.

The next major consideration to determine is the cost of raising the heifers. Although many contracts are written based on a daily feeding rate, some contracts use other strategies to determine pricing, such as a set charge per pound of gain.

In addition to negotiating the cost for raising heifers, including details as to what the expectations are for heifer growth and development is important.

Also be sure to discuss and outline these issues in your contract:

• Who will absorb the cost when a heifer dies?

• Which party pays for vaccinations and any veterinary expenses?

•Party responsible for transportation costs

• Details and expectations for breeding heifers if heifers will be raised during breeding

• Information on expected age and size at breeding, as well as party responsible for paying synchronization and breeding costs and how breeding decisions will be made.

When dairy heifers are being raised by a third party, having a written contract in place is essential to outline the terms of the agreement and to clarify who’s responsible for the various expenses and management tasks.

February 2014

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