Three Areas Costing You Profit by Raising Extra Heifers 

May 4, 2023 

While the cost of raising a heifer from birth to freshening is hard to calculate, it is most definitely a cost in your dairy that you do not want to overlook. Sure. Feed, labor, breeding, and health expenses are likely easy to calculate when you put pen to paper, but have you thought about the hidden costs associated with raising those heifer replacements? Facilities, labor salary and benefits, utilities, and equipment are just a few of those harder to quantify costs that rarely get factored in but are accounted for in budgets.  

Due to hidden opportunity costs of raising heifers, the majority of producers never determine an exact figure. The potential gain given up from choosing one alternative and forgoing another is the opportunity cost of a decision.  

Consider the following three area as opportunity cost on profitability throughout the entire herd by raising those extra heifers:  

  1. Overcrowding and its effects on production, reproduction, and health performance 
  1. Revenue difference between selling your extra heifers verses beef cross calves 
  1. High cull rate versus cash flow positive herd.  

A key management practice on dairies today is heifer inventory optimization. Are you creating the right number of heifer replacements? Are you creating too many for your system? With the advancement in sexed semen, it is easier to maintain your heifer inventory than ever before. Using sexed semen, customers can choose, as precisely as biology and technology currently permit, which portion of the herd will transmit its genetics and produce replacement heifers for the next generation. 

Let’s not get short-sighted when creating heifers with sexed semen, though. We need to consider the type of heifer replacements we are creating. Producing heifers from the cows that are not ideal for your milk market, facilities, and business style is only going to slow down genetic progress and limit your potential profits. That’s why we suggest using a Custom Index to determine which cows will get bred with sexed semen to generate the next generation of heifer replacements.  

When thinking about your heifer inventory, consider these questions to select your dairy’s ideal cow and what genetics you want to continue in the herd.  

  • How do you get paid for your milk?   
  • Why do cows leave the dairy?   
  • What processor demands and facility changes are anticipated in the future?  
  • What does your herd need to look like in 5 years?   

Once we have our heifer inventory optimized, you can ponder on what is the best way to maximize those additional pregnancies that are no longer considered for heifer replacements. Most dairy producers will make the choice to create beef cross calves, while depending on markets, some might throw around the idea of IVF embryos or conventional semen.  

At ABS, we promote our Winning Game Plan of using Sexcel and Beef InFocus. With the Winning Game Plan, a dairy producer can take advantage of the industry’s best fertility sexed product with Sexcel and maximize dairy and beef supply chain profitability by utilizing the best beef cross genetics with Beef InFocus. To learn more about our Winning Game Plan, contact your local ABS Genetic Advisor.  

The moral of this story is raising extra heifers has hidden costs but so does not raising enough heifers. That’s why heifer inventory optimization is critical for the success of your dairy, and with sexed semen, you can achieve that.  

Learn more about the hidden costs of raising extra heifers by reading our article originally published in Progressive Dairy.  

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