A Five State Survey of Heifer Management Practices on Dairy Farms and Virginia Custom Dairy Heifer Growing Operations


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Virginia Tech


Two surveys evaluated heifer management practices in dairy herds and custom grower operations. The NC-119 Heifer Management Survey conducted through the North Central Regional Research Project 119 included 226 Holstein and 67 Jersey herds from MN, MO, PA, VA, and WA. Mean rolling herd average for milk was 8,838 and 6,251 kg for Holstein and Jersey herds, respectively. Calf mortality rates from birth to first calving were 15.3 % for Holsteins and 15.8% for Jerseys. High producing herds had more aggressive, preventive health programs, hand-fed colostrum to newborn calves, and used prepartum groups and separate postpartum groups for first calf heifers. Practices associated with low calf mortality included using maternity pens in barns separate from the dairy herd as a calving facility and vaccination for brucellosis, an indicator of the level of overall management. Larger herds weaned calves earlier, placed more importance on heifer size as a criterion for first breeding, and used prepartum groups and separate postpartum groups for first calf heifers States differed in calving facility and calf housing choices. Calf mortality rates were similar among states. The Virginia Custom Dairy Heifer Rearing Survey included 24 growers. Average herd size was 194 head. Seven growers contracted with dairy producers, nine purchased, raised, and resold heifers, and eight did both. Survey results indicated a need for increased emphasis in several management areas. Only two contract growers had written contracts. Fifty-eight percent never monitored growth and 42% did not have forages tested or rations balanced. Fifty-seven percent used AI.



heifer management, custom heifer growers