Maternal Matters: Breeding Replacement Heifers

The way heifers are bred, selected, and managed has a huge impact on their lifetime productivity and the financial gain or loss to your farm business. Genetic selection is key to producing a ‘functional’ suckler cow.

Breeding replacement heifers for a ‘functional’ suckler cow

The key aim for your replacement heifers is that they develop into ‘functional’ suckler cows. A functional suckler cow calves unassisted every 365 days, has low maintenance costs and remains in the herd long enough to cover her development costs. This is between three to five calves.

Estimated breeding values (EBVs) and indexes should play a major part in selecting the right genetics to breed superior replacement heifers for your herd. Breeding technologies such as artificial insemination (AI) can allow producers to access high genetic merit sires with EBVs that suit the herd’s breeding programme.

AI allows you to select bulls with proven performance and tailor the breeding by selecting traits which will provide you with a functional suckler cow in the future. As well as breeding the right traits into the herd, it is also important that incoming replacement heifers are carefully managed so that they have the best possible start.

Estimated Breeding Values and Breed Indexes

Read about the importance of estimated breeding values (EBVs) and Breed Indexes to meet your end market needs and goals for your herd.

Learn more about using EBVs and Breed Indexes

Breeding technologies

Consider whether implementing breeding technologies such as artificial insemination (AI), synchronisation and sexed semen could help take your herd forward. 

Use the Suckler Breeding Plan for Better Returns

Managing replacement heifers for Better Returns

Replacement heifers contribute to the new genetic make-up, cost structure and productivity of the suckler herd. This manual provides advice on sourcing, selecting and managing replacement heifers so they can become productive members of the breeding herd.

Find out more about how to manage heifers for Better Returns