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Improve Heifer Fertility to Increase Profits

05 March 2012
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - A new Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) guide provides everything you need to know about managing your heifers – from breeding to weaning. Heifer management in northern beef herds is a short, readable guide to best practice management, drawn from the latest MLA-funded research into the topic.

The manual highlights the need to improve re-conception rates in first-calf heifers in order to improve overall herd profitability. Economic modelling in the Katherine region indicates that improved re-conception rates could increase herd gross margin by as much as $1.20 per adult equivalent.

Keith Holzwart from Avago Station in the NT and chairman of the MLA Northern Beef Industry Committee wrote of the importance of heifer management in his foreword to the manual.

“Reproductive performance is one of the major profit drivers in our business. We have to ensure that replacement heifers coming through the ranks are fit, well prepared and given every possible chance to perform to their best ability,” he said.

The manual covers all key aspects of heifer management including re-conception and calf losses; body condition and feeding; heifer selection; puberty and joining; calving and calf losses and weaning.

Some of its key recommendations include:

  • Body condition at mating has the greatest effect on heifer fertility. Conservative stocking and good pasture in heifer paddocks are the cheapest ways to achieve good body condition.
  • Heifers should be segregated from the breeder herd, grazed on the best paddocks and may need supplements over the post-weaning dry season to reach critical mating weight. For Bos indicus heifers this is at 320–340kg.
  • If heifers are selected before joining, this should be based on growth over the postweaning year, and not on weight at weaning, which largely depends on age.
  • Select replacement heifers from those that get pregnant early in the joining period and on temperament.
  • Wean calves early, down to 100kg (3 months), or even earlier if heifer survival is at risk.

“The general principles and recommendations carefully constructed in this publication can be used as game plan by all beef breeders irrespective of breed or region across the entire northern beef industry,” Mr Holzwart said.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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