Without measuring calf growth dairy producers cannot effectively measure the return on their calf and heifer nutrition investment.
Raising dairy replacement heifers is a significant investment for most dairy operations. Monitoring performance and making adjustments as an investment grows is a key to optimizing return on investment. Without measuring calf growth from birth to weaning, post-weaning to breeding age, and then from breeding age to calving, dairy producers cannot effectively measure the return on their investment. That’s according to Gary Geisler, a calf and heifer specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition, located in Wisconsin.
To effectively monitor growth rates, plan on evaluating calf and heifer growth every three months. If frequent monitoring is not possible for all age groups, focus on the youngest animals, says Geisler.
Geisler references the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards as a guide to setting the following calf growth goals.
Young calves (birth to 180 days of age):
• Double birth weight from 24 hours to 60 days of age
• Maintain 2.2 pounds per day average daily gain from 61 to 120 days of age
• Achieve 2.0 pounds per day average daily gain from 121 to 180 days of age
Breeding age heifers (13 to 15 months of age):
• Weight of 825-900 pounds (or 55 percent of the weight of mature cows in the herd)
• Hip height greater than 50 inches
• Wither height greater than 48 inches