A Microcomputer Simulation to Evaluate Management Strategies For Rearing Dairy Replacements.
Bethard, Greg L.
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A microcomputer simulation was developed as a tool for analyzing the dairy replacement enterprise. The simulation was constructed using a spreadsheet, and equations were developed using stepwise regression procedures. The simulation predicted BW, DMI, and fixed and variable costs for each week of a heifer's life from birth to calving. After calving, milk yield, feed costs, and fixed costs were predicted for first lactation. Variation was estimated for each predicted variable, thus enabling normal distribution of predicted values. The simulation was used to analyze profitability of various growth rate scenarios and marginal costs associated with changing feed costs, heat detection efficiency, death loss, and abortion rate. For the growth analysis, six scenarios were evaluated: 1) normal growth from 5 wk to calving, 2) Accelerated growth from 5 wk to calving, 3) slow growth from 5 wk to calving, 4) normal Growth from 5 wk to 14 mo and accelerated growth from 14 mo to calving, 5) accelerated growth from 5 wk to 14 mo and control growth from 14 mo to calving, and 6) slow growth from 5 wk to 14 mo and accelerated growth from 14 mo to calving. Average daily gain from birth to calving was 0.78, 0.90, 0.62, 0.78,0.75, and 0.80 kg/d, and age at calving was 25.1, 23.1, 27.4, 23.1, 23.0, and 23.1 mo,respectively. Total rearing cost from birth to calving was 1246, 1220, 1275, 1148, 1148, and 1138 $/heifer, and net profit through first lactation was 399, 407, 319, 441, 432, and 463 $/heifer, respectively. Results suggest modest growth rates from birth to calving (0.75 to 0.80 kg/d) with reduced first calving age <24 mo) is most desirable, and delayed calving (>24 mo) is costly and merits higher growth rates with earlier breeding. Increasing feed costs, death loss at birth through weaning, or abortion rate one percentage point increased rearing costs 7.33, 2.40, and 9.10 $/heifer. Improving heat detection efficiency one percentage point reduced rearing costs $2.80/heifer. For the heat detection analysis, the relationship between age at first calving and total rearing costs was -584.38 + 73.49 x calving age in mo (R-squared = 0.97), for ages at first calving from 24.4 to 26.6 mo. Results of this research agree with field observations that managers should strive for early calving (<24 mo) and modest growth rates (0.75 to 0.80 kg/d) to maximize profitability of the replacement enterprise. In addition, death loss, abortion rate, and heat detection efficiency are variables that a manager must control to minimize heifer rearing costs.
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