Raising Dairy Heifers on Pasture


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Raising Dairy Heifers on Pasture

  1. 1. Raising Dairy Heifers on Pasture A Publication of ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Anne Fanatico This publication discusses the costs and considerations in custom raising replacement dairy heifers onNCAT Agriculture pasture, and provides a list of additional online resources.SpecialistUpdated byLee RinehartNCAT AgricultureSpecialist© 2009 NCATContentsIntroduction ..................... 1Custom heiferraising ................................ 2Costs of raisingheifers ................................ 2Online resources............. 3 Photo by Esben Nørgaard. Introduction Raising cattle on pasture necessitates man- agement decisions about grazing. Controlled Heifers are the foundation of a dairy enter- grazing or management-intensive rotational prise and replacements represent a signifi- grazing (MIG) of pastures can increase cant investment. Information about raising animal production and maintain resilient, replacement heifers on pasture is becoming diverse and nutritious pastures. Controlled more available as producers begin to adopt grazing involves grazing and then resting grass-based systems to alleviate energy several pastures in sequence. The rest periods costs associated with raising feed crops. For allow plants to recover before they are grazed general information on raising heifers, refer to again. Although an intensive system has initialATTRA—National SustainableAgriculture Information Service Cooperative Extension Service materials such costs of electric fencing and watering invest-(www.attra.ncat.org) is managed as Raising Dairy Replacements or Agricultural ments, as well as increased management, manyby the National Center for Appro-priate Technology (NCAT) and is Alternatives: Dairy Heifer Production, as refer- farmers report better profitability. Please referfunded under a grant from the enced in the Online resources section. to the Related ATTRA Publications forUnited States Department of more information.Agriculture’s Rural Business- Traditionally, dairy farmers have raised theirCooperative Service. Visit theNCAT Web site (www.ncat.org/ own heifers, but custom raising of heifers is When planning a feed supplement programsarc_current.php) for now becoming an enterprise in its own right. for pastured heifers, first determine the typemore information onour sustainable agri- This can be an opportunity for supplemental and amount of forage the animal is eating,culture projects. income or a farm’s main operation. and then consider the nutritive content of the
  2. 2. forage. Most cool-season grass-legume pastures recommends contract raising of heifers as a provide more crude protein than is needed by high-value enterprise particularly well-suited the animal. In this case, a small amount of for small acreages.Related ATTRA grain or bypass protein will stimulate gain.Publications Native warm-season grasses and some legumes, Custom heifer raisingNutrient Cycling such as birdsfoot trefoil, tend to be less soluble It is increasingly common for heifers to bein Pastures in the rumen and have a higher bypass protein raised by contract on specialty farms. HiringPaddock Design, availability. Producers can aim for the same out the raising of replacement heifers is advan-Fencing, and Water heifer growth rates on pasture that are possible tageous to a milk producer for at least twoSystems for Controlled with confinement feeding of grain. reasons. First, it saves labor on the dairy farmGrazing University of Minnesota researchers have and second, it frees all the forage or other feedRuminant Nutrition documented gains and costs of raising dairy to be utilized by milk-producing animals.for Graziers heifers in a feedlot versus raising them on However, mingling heifers from several dif-Pastures: Sustainable pasture. In their study, the feedlot heif- ferent farms is a concern for health reasons.Management ers had an average daily gain (ADG) of 2 Custom raising of heifers is not recommended pounds per head while the pasture heifersCattle Production as an enterprise for beginning farmers because had an ADG of 2.04, with a total cost per of the level of knowledge and experience neededPasture, Rangeland, head per day of $1.52 versus $0.95 respec-and Grazing tively. The study, Tale of Two Heifer-raising to manage young animals. Grazing expertise isManagement Systems: Feedlot and management intensive useful since pasture and grazing management grazing go head to head by Margot Rudstrom, are key to enterprise sustainability and profit-Dairy Productionon Pasture is available online, and is referenced below in ability. Finding heifers to raise may be difficult the Online resources section. at first, but a good reputation and track recordRotational Grazing will be assets in securing animals. BreedingDairy Resource List: Local and state Cooperative Extension Ser- expertise may also be important depending onOrganic and vice or Natural Resources Conservation contractual obligations.Pasture-Based Service (NRCS) personnel may have infor- mation on rotational grazing and grass Tom Wrchota in Wisconsin received a Sus-Pasture, Rangeland, tainable Agriculture Research and Edu-and Grazing dairying and can help choose forage species and varieties that work best for a producer cation (SARE) producer grant to customManagement in a grazing program. In addition, The Stock- graze heifers and summarized his resultsGrazing Contracts in a report called Developing Dairy Heifers man Grass Farmer is a magazine “dedicatedfor Livestock on Pasture. According to the SARE report, to profit from grassland agriculture” and has many articles dealing with grazing and “the most surprising aspect about the devel- sponsors workshops on grass management opment and successful implementation of and seasonal dairying. Refer to the section a seasonal custom heifer grazing program called The Grass Farmer’s Bookshelf in every was: the grant program started with very issue of The Stockman Grass Farmer for use- modest amounts of capital, almost no expe- ful books about forages and forage manage- rience and a limited cash/no debt strategy.” ment. The magazine’s editor, Allan Nation, The SARE report can be accessed online at www.sare.org/reporting/report_viewer.asp?pn= FNC93-040&ry=1995&rf=1. Accessing your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Cooperative Extension Service offices Costs of raising heifers NRCS and Extension phone numbers can be obtained in the federal and county government sections, respectively, of your local telephone The costs associated with a custom heifer directory. Also, you can access local NRCS and Extension directories on raising enterprise include labor, feed, facili- the following Web sites: ties and fencing and veterinary costs. Feed Natural Resources Conservation Service costs and labor costs are usually the largest http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?agency=nrcs costs to a custom grazier. High-quality pas- Cooperative Extension Service ture and good grazing management can help www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html reduce these costs and ensure a profitable, sustainable enterprise.Page 2 ATTRA Raising Dairy Heifers on Pasture
  3. 3. The Economics of Heifer Contracting, by mating costs and charging to cover costsRobert Moore, Joseph Beiler and Gary from a custom heifer raising enterprise, andSchnitkey of The Ohio State University, can be accessed online at http://ohioline.osu.was developed to assist producers in esti- edu/as-fact/0006.html.Online resourcesThe use of pasture and grazing management to raise Contracting Fundamentals. www.extension.org/pages/dairy heifers is becoming more prominent in the indus- Dairy_Heifer_Contracting_Fundamentalstry, and the following online resources will assist the Outlines the advantages of using contracts and describesinterested producer in planning and managing this the components that custom heifer growers may want torisky but often rewarding enterprise. include in their own contracts.Anon. 2008. Labor Efficient Pasture Management. Rudstrom, Margot. 2002. Tale of Two Heifer-raisingPenn State Extension. Accessed June 2009. www.extension. Systems: Feedlot and management intensive grazing goorg/pages/Labor_Efficient_Pasture_Management head to head. Dairy Initiative Newsletter. Vol. 11, No. 1. University of Minnesota. www.ansci.umn.edu/dairy/Beiler, Joseph. 2000. Dairy Heifer Contracting: dinews/11-1-heifer-raising.htmMotives, Forms, and Arrangements. The Ohio StateUniversity Extension Fact Sheet AS-0005-00. Sanson, Ron, et al. 2002. Growing Dairy Heifers inhttp://ohioline.osu.edu/as-fact/0005.html Southwest Iowa. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agri- Identifies important points a producer should consider when culture. Accessed June 2009. www.leopold.iastate.edu/ examining heifer contracting. Three topics are discussed: research/grants/2002/1999-11_Dairy_Heifer_Production_ reasons for entering a contract, forms of contracting and the %5B_Animal_Mngt_&_Forage_%5D.pdf arrangement between the producer and the grower. Based on the experiences of the limited number of coop- erators in the project, this is a high-risk operation withFischer, David B., Michael F. Hutjens and Edward N. minimal financial returns to the farmer. ProblemsBallard. 2005. Pasture-Based Feeding Programs for encountered were the source and price of quality dairyDairy Cattle. University of Illinois Extension. Accessed heifers in the spring, what type of arrangement the pro-June 2009. www.livestocktrail.uiuc.edu/dairynet/paper- ducer could make to market the animals at the end ofDisplay.cfm?ContentID=7160 the pasture growing season and the variability of pastureHedtcke, Janet and Josh Posner. Rotational Grazing production in southwest Iowa.with Dairy Heifers on WICST: b. Animal Performance Stockman Grass Farmer MagazineSummary. Accessed June 2009. UW-Madison Center PO Box 2300for Integrated Agricultural Systems. www.cias.wisc.edu/ Ridgeland, MS 39158-9911wicst/pubs/rotate_b.htm 1-800-748-9808James, Robert E. Nutrition of heifers while on pasture. www.stockmangrassfarmer.net/index.htmlDept. of Dairy Science, Virginia Tech. http://128.118.11. UMCE Pasture Management Home Study: an Online160/dairynutrition/documents/jamespastheif.pdf Course. University of Maine Cooperative Extension.Mongeon, Mario, et al. 1998. Considerations for Custom www.umaine.edu/umext/pasture/index.htmRaising Dairy Heifers. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Web-based lessons on planning a grazing system, plantFood, and Rural Affairs. Accessed June 2009. www. species selection, fencing systems, weed management,omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/dairy/facts/98-059.htm grazier’s arithmetic, managing for a year-long forage supply and water systems.Moynihan, Meg (ed). 2006. Organic Production andCustom Heifer Raising. From Dairy Your Way. University of Minnesota Dairy Extension CustomMinnesota Department of Agriculture. www.misa.umn. Heifer Raising Contracts Page www.extension.umn.edu/edu/vd/publications/DYW_Chp5_Chp6.pdf dairy/business/customheifer.htm A page of links to custom heifer raising contractRoth, Sarah, Jud Heinrichs and Coleen Jones. 2008. resources, including contracting fundamentals, economics,The Pennsylvania State University. Dairy Heifer forms, heifer raising preferences and more.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. Raising Dairy Heifers on Pasture By Anne Fanatico NCAT Agriculture Specialist Updated by Lee Rinehart NCAT Agriculture Specialist © 2009 NCAT Holly Michels, Editor Amy Smith, Production This publication is available on the Web at: www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/dairyheifer.html or www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/dairyheifer.pdf IP356 Slot 23 Version 010410Page 4 ATTRA