For producers who raise their own replacement females, cost-effective development and long-term productivity are critical to the economics of the enterprise. Glenn Rogers, a technical services veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health, recommends focusing on two key areas: setting cost-effective goals and developing the immune system.

In setting goals to achieve growth, reproductive and economic objectives, Rogers suggests these steps.

  • Begin with 10 to 25 percent more heifers than needed in the initial pool to allow for heifers that fail to meet reproductive and growth targets.
  • Estrous synchronization and artificial insemination can lead to improved genetics and a tighter calving period, and can offer economic advantages in some operations.
  • The traditional target weight for heifers at breeding is 65 percent of projected mature weight. That target might, however, not be economically sound in many production systems. Recent information shows satisfactory reproductive performance from developing heifers to a slightly lower percent of projected mature weight. In light of drastically increased input costs, producers might want to re-evaluate traditional target weights. 

A heifer immunization program, Rogers says, is the foundation for cow herd immunity. Substantial carry-over effect in herd immunity occurs with sound health management for heifers. And because heifers generally have less immunity to reproductive diseases than mature cows, a sound pre-breeding vaccination program is essential for protective immunity during breeding and throughout pregnancy. Rogers recommends a pre-breeding vaccination program for heifers that includes a modified-live vaccine for protection against IBR abortions and BVD Types 1 and 2 persistent infection. He recommends that heifers receive at least two doses, with the second dose administered approximately 30 days prior to breeding. He also suggests using a leptospirosis vaccine including hardjo-bovis and Campylobacter fetus.