INDUSTRY NEWS: 3 Refreshers for your Replacement Heifer Program

Published on Thu, 09/29/2016 - 12:56pm

It’s no secret that replacement heifers are some of the most valuable animals in your herd; however, value goes hand in hand with vulnerability. With recent record-high costs to develop replacement females, it may be time to consider a refresh on your replacement heifer program.
“Heifer calves retained in 2014 and 2015 came at the highest cost of development in history with some estimates at more than $2,200 invested through preg-check,” says N.T. Cosby, Ph.D. and cattle nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “With cattle markets projected to decline over the next few years, it’s especially important for you to recoup value on replacement heifers.”
Here are three quick refreshers for your replacement heifer program:
1. Select older heifers
“We need to be identifying fertile, easy-fleshing females that will get bred early the first time and every time after,” says Cosby. “The ideal replacement would remain in the herd for at least seven to eight years as a profitable cow.”
Older heifers are typically from cows that calved early in the breeding season, which can imply that those heifers are more fertile. Like their dams, older heifers have a better chance of being bred early.
“A challenge can arise if you don’t have complete calving records. Without them, we often tend to select heifers that are bigger, not necessarily older. That results in a set of replacement heifers that will be larger in mature size than desired,” Cosby cautions.
If large heifers are selected consistently as replacements, you may end up with a set of cows that are too big for their environment. Also, larger cows can require more supplemental feed to breed back promptly and raise their calves.
2. Target 55 to 65 percent mature weight for breeding
“Once you have selected heifers for development, the next target is to reach 55 to 56 percent of their mature weight at breeding time,” says Cosby. “Depending on management, environment and selection pressure applied, heifers may fall on the low or high end of the range, but anywhere in the range is desirable for first breeding at 14 or 15 months of age.”
You may sacrifice conception rates and longevity of your herd if heifers are lower than 55 percent of mature weight at breeding.
“To fall within the desired weight range heifers will need to grow at a rate of 1.25 to 1.5 pounds per day from the time of weaning until first breeding,” says Cosby. “A high-energy feed that uses intake control properties can work with your forages to provide a predictable intake that delivers targeted gains. We also recommend having a quality mineral available at all times.”
3. Take reproductive tract scores
To identify highly fertile females, Cosby recommends working with a veterinarian to score reproductive tracts 45 days before breeding.
“Before you invest more resources into a heifer, it can be helpful to score reproductive tracts and set hard criteria for culling,” says Cosby. “Heifers that score below 3 on the 1 (immature or infertile) to 5 (cycling) scoring scale could be culled as potential replacements before first breeding. Heifers that score a 4 or 5 are ideal.”
Research has demonstrated that reproductive tract scoring is an effective method for evaluating heifers that reach puberty early. When scored between 12 and 14 months of age, heifers with low reproductive scores (1 and 2) have shown poor reproductive performance.
Reproductive tract scoring can also identify freemartins that may have slipped through the cracks.
The period between heifer selection and getting a heifer rebred after her first calf is crucial. It’s a time frame that can make or break a replacement female, resulting in either a huge economic loss or a productive, profitable cow.
“Selecting older heifers and applying selection pressure for fertility in the first year can pay dividends for the next several years,” concludes Cosby. “Developing fertile, early calving heifers is a goal that will deliver value in a cow herd during any economic situation.”
The Purina® All Seasons™ Cattle Nutrition Program is designed to support more heifers bred in the first 60 days post-calving. Talk to your local Purina representative to learn more, or visit to start your feeding trial. 

Preconditioning Impacts Performance
Before calves arrive at the feedlot, they can make a number of stops along the way — from the ranch of origin, to the stocker or backgrounder operation and then to the finishing facility. A proven way for feeding operations to reduce illness and increase sustainability is by choosing calves with an immune system capable of handling infectious challenges they could encounter along the way.
“We care for these animals, and in the spirit of being true stewards and good stockmen, we naturally look for information that can help us improve overall herd health and operational outcomes,” said Elizabeth Fraser, DVM, Beef Technical Services at Zoetis. “Selecting well-managed calves that have been well fed and received vaccines at the ranch consistently result in better health and productivity in the feedyard.”
Buying calves that were preconditioned ahead of stressors like shipment and commingling helps ward off potential health risks, such as bovine respiratory disease (BRD). BRD accounts for annual feedlot losses of $1 billion due to loss of production, increased labor expenses, pharmaceutical costs and death.
Purchasing cattle enrolled in a third-party verified preconditioning program like SelectVAC® from Zoetis provides additional insight into the cattle being purchased and improves transparency. SelectVAC details how the cattle were managed, products administered and the timing of product administration.

“Each feedyard has its own arrival protocols,” said Dr. Fraser. “Having verified information detailing previous vaccination and herd management information can help feedlots make important initial processing decisions.”
Preconditioning results in better health and feedlot performance by reducing feedlot morbidity and mortality, and lowering treatment costs. Calves enrolled in SelectVAC demonstrated better performance than other preconditioning programs in a commercial feedlot study and were more than four times less likely to get sick or die than calves with an unverified health history.
Performance improvements seen in preconditioned cattle included higher average daily gains, improved feed conversion and lower cost of gain. These differences increased the value of preconditioned calves for feedlot managers by $5.25/cwt.
“If you have animals facing the challenges of shipment and commingling, their potential for success is enhanced by being armed with a properly stimulated immune system,” said Dr. Fraser. “Actively sourcing preconditioned cattle will increase their potential to remain healthy and productive, which is definitely an added value for buyers.”
To learn more about the SelectVAC program, please visit For more information about preconditioning, visit with your animal health adviser or Zoetis representative.

Mattracks Expands Product Line

Mattracks, the original manufacturer of rubber track conversions, has expanded its track offerings for automotive/truck applications with the release of its 400M1A1 model.  This expands the Mattracks automotive lineup by doubling the load capacity of the 200 series, which was the largest truck system prior to the 400 series release.  The 400 series is ideal for use on commercial vehicles weighing up to 40,000 lbs that require off-road mobility.  Designed for heavy loads and smooth rides, the 400M1A1 track conversion system features a 20” wide front track and 30” wide rear track.   The 400 series is a hub mounted design in order to facilitate a fast conversion from tires to tracks with little to no vehicle modification.  This model also features Mattracks exclusive, patented rubber torsion anti-torque system, steering assist option, rocker suspension, and rear external idler for optimum sprocket wrap and fender clearance.
Mattracks 400 series track conversion system adds versatility to commercial and industrial specialty vehicles such as drilling rigs, aerial devices, vacuum trucks, and other service/maintenance vehicles.  Markets include, but not limited to: oil and gas, utility, agriculture, construction, mining, exploration, tourism, and search and rescue.
Located in Karlstad MN and established 22 years ago with inspiration from the founder’s 12 year old son Matt, Mattracks now manufactures over 100 different models of Rubber Track Conversion systems for ATV’s, UTV’s, Trucks, Tractors, Custom Harvesters, Swathers, Sprayers, Construction Equipment, Trailers, and more.  Additional information is available by contacting Mattracks, Inc. at 218-683-9800, 877-436-7800 (toll-free US & Canada) or 218-436-7000. Visit us online at, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube or email us at

Case IH Rolls Out Big Changes

The new LB434XL 3x4 large square baler from Case IH helps high-volume hay and forage producers bale more acres per day thanks to improved capacity and greater bale density. Paired with a Puma® or Optum® tractor, this rugged and reliable baler produces consistent, uniform bales acre after acre — regardless of the crop or field conditions.
“Not only are we meeting the demand for heavier bales with greater density through our LB434XL balers, we’re giving producers the technology they need to more efficiently harvest each crop at its peak nutritional value,” said Cole Carling, Case IH hay and forage marketing manager. “From tractors to balers and the latest precision technology, the growing lineup of innovative Case IH equipment at dealerships across North America truly offers a one-stop shop for today’s producer.”
LB434XL large square balers raise the bar for productivity and reliability
From the beefed-up bale chamber to the rugged frame, the LB434XL is designed from the ground up for large-scale hay and forage operations with a lot of ground to cover and a short time to do it. Operators will immediately notice a 31.5-inch longer bale chamber. This 31 percent increase over current LB434 balers delivers up to 10 percent higher bale density. Greater density means more crop per bale, decreasing bale count as well as handling, wrapping and transportation costs — helping producers economically reach new markets.


The new LB434XL 3x4 large square baler from Case IH 
Click [HERE] to download a hi-res file.
ISOBUS Class 3-enabled Feedrate Control technology makes the dense, well-formed bales produced by the LB434XL easy to achieve for operators of all skill levels. This technology allows the baler to run at optimal performance and capacity by controlling the speed of an ISOBUS Class 3-compatible tractor, such as the versatile Optum. Feedrate Control includes two running operations:

  • Charge Control: Automatically adjusts the tractor’s speed to reach optimal capacity from the baler. This results in higher throughput by up to 9 percent overall.
  • Slice Control: Automatically adjusts the tractor’s speed based on bale slice thickness. This allows the operator to predetermine the number of slices per bale to create more consistent bale weight and length.

In addition to ISOBUS Class 3, the LB434XL comes with AFS capability built in. The intuitive, easy-to-read AFS Pro 300 or 700 control center display monitors bale weight and moisture while detecting misties in real time — even at high speeds. Regardless of windrow conditions, steering sensors located on each side of the pre-chamber show the operator how to steer for quicker reactions and more uniform bale slices.
The LB434XL baler is built to handle capacity. Additional enhancements to this workhorse model include:

  • Robust design: The heavy-duty plunger hammers out uniform, dense bales at 48 strokes per minute while the rugged PTO driveline handles 40 percent more peak torque. Increased pickup auger thickness, more robust axle and bearing options and a stronger frame add to overall durability.
  • Larger platform: A larger platform makes baler clean-off easier for greater productivity. Folding safety railings simplify shipping and road transport, along with better access to the front of knotter fans.
  • Improved bale-ejection system: The extended bale chamber ensures bales drop more gently with less twine breakage. Partial or full bale eject options feature an active teeth system for greater durability and reliable bale ejection.
  • Hydraulic hose identification: Color-coded decals identify hydraulic lines to simplify tractor hookup.
  • LED work and service lights: Clear illumination to key areas such as pickup, twine boxes, needles and knotters, and the rear safety rail provide better visibility.

ISOBUS Class 3 technology boosts round baler productivity
For Model Year 2017, RB5 series round balers can be equipped with a new ISOBUS Class 3 Tractor and Baler Automation option. This system controls the tractor stop, bale wrap and bale eject functions without any operator input required. Hooked up to a Puma or Maxxum CVT tractor, operators can take advantage of ISOBUS Class 3 controls to automatically stop the tractor when the target bale size is reached. From there, net wrap is automatically applied and, when the wrap cycle is complete, the baler tailgate raises and lowers automatically to eject each wrapped bale. Once the completed bale is ejected, the operator can simply move the tractor shuttle lever to the forward position and go.

Model Year 2017 RB5 series round balers from Case IH
Click [HERE] to download a hi-res file.
“We look forward to helping our customers rethink just how productive their operations can be with these latest baler enhancements and technology,” Carling added.
For more information, visit your Case IH dealer or

Backes joins Purina Animal Nutrition cattle team

Purina Animal Nutrition announces the hiring of Elizabeth Backes, Ph.D., as a nutritionist on the beef technical services team.
Backes grew up on a small cow/calf operation in Saint Thomas, Mo., where she developed her passion for agriculture and sparked her interest in a career in the beef cattle industry.
“Backes’ passion for the agriculture industry and her background in nutrition and performance will be a great resource for Purina’s customers,” says Ted Perry, cattle nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “Our team focuses on providing research-backed information and products to unlock the full potential of their animals.”
More than 1,350 research projects have been conducted at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center to date. The underlying theme behind all of this research is to deliver proven, flexible solutions that give cattle producers the confidence that they’re doing what’s right for their animals and their operation.
Earning a Ph.D. in cow/calf parasitology from the University of Arkansas, Backes’ work focused on evaluating various commercial anthelmintics in cow/calf production. She received her master’s degree in animal science with an emphasis in ruminant nutrition from the University of Arkansas where she studied animal management practices, particularly grazing and weaning management, in small ruminants. Backes also completed her bachelor’s degree in agriculture with an emphasis in animal science from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
“Purina has a strong contribution to the beef industry,” says Backes. “My work with Purina will help contribute to the technical side of the beef industry and provide cattle producers the knowledge they need to provide optimal nutrition to their animals.”
For more information, call (800) 227-8941 or go to: