Iowa Beef Center offers online heifer development resources

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With the cow herd at the smallest level since 1962, recent moderation in grain prices, and optimism for growth in domestic and export demand, the stage is set for expansion of the national beef cow herd. Iowa State University beef cow-calf specialist Patrick Gunn said this has led to increased heifer retention numbers over the past two years, but environmental and financial concerns have tempered that optimism.

“Recent droughts in many areas of the U.S., coupled with increased feed prices and land prices, have undoubtedly hampered realization of true expansion to date,” he said. “However, with both fed and feeder cattle markets now at record levels, it appears the national cow herd is ready to expand.”

The recent price boom in all sectors of the beef industry translates to increased value (and cost) of replacement breeding stock, so it’s vital to understand how to maximize reproductive efficiency for enterprises looking to expand, he said. That’s why, two years ago, the Iowa Beef Center (IBC) at Iowa State offered an initial series aimed at helping producers learn to successfully develop a heifer to breeding age.

“In conjunction with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, in 2012 the Iowa Beef Center offered a successful statewide educational program entitled, ‘Heifer Development: Rebuilding Our Future,’” Gunn said. “Through this program, best management practices from weaning to pregnancy-check were outlined and resources shared.”

Since then, IBC has received multiple requests for that same information. To assist with the demand, various staff and faculty members have created a series of YouTube videos and are compiling links to additional resources. All of these are available on a new IBC webpage at  Currently there are links to eight videos that highlight best management practices. As additional resources are identified, they’ll be added to the page.

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