Developing Replacement Heifers…

Published on Wed, 03/13/2019 - 9:35am

Developing Replacement Heifers…

 By Kit Pharo

 Enough articles and papers have been written about the proper way to select and develop replacement heifers to fill a large barn.   Guess what?   It’s not that complicated.   I don’t know why we are so determined to complicate simple matters, but we are.   Unfortunately, the more complicated we make things, the less profitable they    become.

Weaned heifer calves that have been saved for replacement females will not generate any income for two years.   Therefore, ranchers cannot afford to invest much money into their development.   Rather than place them in a high-input, artificial environment, we need to treat them like the cows we hope they will become.   They need to be out foraging for themselves, with little (or no) hay or supplements.   If a heifer can’t do this, she probably won’t make an efficient and profitable momma cow.

We suggest you retain all of your heifer calves, rough them through the winter and expose them to a bull for a very short period of time.   This system will allow only your most efficient and early maturing heifers to advance into the cowherd.   Why not sit back and let the environment sort out your best replacement heifers?   Do you really think you have the ability to do a better job?   The heifers that fail to get bred can be treated as stockers and sold in the fall for a profit.   If you have more bred heifers than you need, you won’t have any trouble selling them for a good profit.   There is always a huge demand for the right size and type of replacement heifers.

Very profitable enterprise.   Although a few highly respected ranch consultants believe ranchers cannot afford to produce their own replacement heifers, I maintain this can be a very profitable enterprise – when properly done.   Think about it… in just one year you can double the value of a heifer calf simply by turning her out with a bull.   And, where else will you be able to find good replacement heifers that are adapted to your environment?   Long-term success, however, requires three things: 1) using early-maturing, low-maintenance bulls, 2) working with nature and/or your forage resources, and 3) spending very little (or nothing) on hay and other inputs.

Keep the pressure on.   Once your heifers are confirmed bred, they should be thrown in with your mature cows – if they are not already with the cows.   They should receive no special care.   If you are using genuine calving ease bulls, your heifers can be calved out with the mature cowherd.   This will save time, labor and money.   Treating heifers like the cows you hope they will become will continue to force the inefficient and unadapted females out of your program.   Every heifer and cow should have to earn her place in the herd.

Pharo Cattle Company in Eastern Colorado.   Everything from teenage cows to coming-first-calf heifers to heifer calves – all wintering together on short, dormant grass with no hay or supplement.