Heifer Development: Target Weight Concept

By Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Team published in BEEF Cattle by Ohio State University Extension - The Target Weight Concept is a method to control the amount of gain.
calendar icon 24 April 2007
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We thereby assure the heifers attain enough gain to attain puberty but also avoid getting them too fat. Rates of gain not lower than 1 lb. or greater than 2.O lbs. per day reflect the needs of most of our current cattle population. For example, a heifer weighs 450 lbs. at weaning and has a target puberty weight of 675 lbs. There are 200 days between weaning and breeding. We would actually prefer her to reach puberty weight at least 2 to 3 cycles before breeding (160 days).

(675-450)/160 = 1.4 lbs of gain per day

Rations can be formulated to meet the nutritional requirements for this amount of gain. The rate of gain need not be constant over the entire period, as long as the target weight is reached. Typical gain targets from weaning to breeding are 1.25 to 1.5 lbs per day for British breed type heifers and 1.5 to 1.75 lbs per day for Continental breed types. Some research identifies advantages to developing heifers in stages of reduced energy and gain followed by periods of compensatory growth. A slight reduction in feed expenses has been shown for heifers developed at fairly slow rates of gain early followed by a period of accelerated growth just prior to breeding.

Target weights and gains for developing replacement heifers
Stage of
Age, months Target weight, lbs % of mature Target gain lbs/day
Weaning period 8 450 41 1.75
Post-weaning to breeding 9 500 45 1.25
Breeding to calving 14 684 62 .8
Calving to rebreeding 23 880 80 .4
Second breeding season 27 927 84 .4
Second calving 36 1012 92 .2

The gain can be increased through supplementation during the winter feeding period if previous experience on the farm tells us that heifer gains on pasture just prior to the breeding season are less than adequate. Heifers going to adequate pasture, prior to breeding can be expected to gain from .75 to 1.4 pounds daily. Knowing forage quality means knowing whether protein, energy or both must be supplemented. Computer ration balancing services are available through the county extension offices and probably through the local feed dealer.

April 2007

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