Maternal Matters: Managing Heifers
Replacement heifers contribute to the new genetic make-up, cost structure and productivity of the suckler herd. By using genetics effectively and retaining only those best suited to your farming system, herd performance can be improved. However, a heifer will never be able to express its true potential unless nutrition is targeted to its particular life stage.
Managing heifers effectively
Fertility is one of the key drivers of profitability within the suckler herd. However, it is extremely difficult to understand without measuring it. As well as fertility, you can also track several other aspects of herd performance to help identify your superior cows as well as any weaknesses in the system.
To do this, maintaining good records using software packages or AHDB’s herd notebook is essential. The information you collect can then be used to calculate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Once you understand your herd's performance, you can start tweaking your management practices. Ensuring the correct nutrition is provided for each stage of the heifers’ development is crucial to ensure high conception rates, reduced pregnancy loss and successful calf development.
Feed, nutrition and environment
Feed also accounts for over 75% of variable costs on most beef farms. This makes it an important factor, not only of animal performance but of business profitability.
As well as nutrition, the housing environment can have a significant impact on the overall health and productivity of your suckler herd. In many instances, improvements can be made to existing buildings which will drive positive change.
Remember that even with excellent nutrition and the perfect environment, your heifers are still vulnerable to disease. Vaccines help prevent this.
To ensure you are using vaccines responsibly and effectively, work with your vet to produce an active health plan, specifically for your herd. This should cover recommended vaccinations and internal and external parasite treatments.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for maternal suckler traits
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a useful way to monitor fertility within your suckler herd.
Nutrition for heifers
Successful heifer development is underpinned by nutrition. Feed accounts for over 75% of variable costs on most beef farms so it is an important factor, not only of animal performance, but of business profitability.
Managing replacement heifers for better returns
Replacement heifers contribute to the new genetic make-up, cost structure and productivity of the suckler herd. This set of pages provides advice on sourcing, selecting and managing replacement heifers so they can become productive members of the breeding herd.
Better cattle housing design
Improving existing cattle buildings, or designing new builds to best standards, has a lasting and positive impact on animal health and productivity. This page looks at the factors to bear in mind when farmers are considering cattle housing design.
Vaccinations for a suckler herd
Vaccines are incredibly important to help prevent disease within a suckler herd. This page looks at how to use vaccinations in the suckler herd responsibly and to gain better returns.