Replacement heifers: Raise your own or buy from someone else?

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The decision to buy or raise replacement females can generally be broken into two categories: financial and convenience.  Both short-term (cash flow) and long-term financial decisions must be evaluated.  In addition, convenience considerations may play a role in the decision.  A source of females must be found; the genetic, phenotypic and behavioral characteristics of the females must match the ranch objectives; and the experience must be repeatable with positive results from one year to the next.  The customary approach for female replacement has been to select and develop heifer calves born from the cows in production on the ranch.  However, certain factors have led many managers to re-evaluate their replacement female programs.

1. The inability to effectively and successfully incorporate the advantages of maternal and terminal heterosis into their production system.

2. The desire to reduce the number of enterprises they are required to manage, thereby allowing them to focus more attention on other things; including dealing with “nonproduction” pressures such as land and water use, development, and other issues that threaten their ability to survive in the ranching business.

3. A recognition that the calves they currently produce are not in step with incentives that are driving value determination in today’s beef industry.

4. Maternal supplier enterprises that make high quality replacement females more accessible and often more affordable than “home-raised” replacement heifers.

For more detail on these considerations, read the article titled “Purchasing versus raising replacement females.”

Also, Colorado State University provides an online spreadsheet calculator producers can use to compare the costs and benefits or purchasing versus raising replacement heifers.

Answer from Dr. Jack Whittier, Extension beef specialist, Colorado State University



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