A news article in the Cattle Site features an address that Dr Alana Boulton made at the recent British Society of Animal Science conference in Chester about a study in which she examines in detail the economics of heifer rearing.
The outcomes of this research indicate that the cost of rearing dairy heifers in Great Britain is largely dependent upon the age at first calving, the amount of time that heifers spend grazing, the calving pattern of the herd, the size of the milking herd and the breed. A ‘one figure fits all’ is therefore unrealistic and unhelpful to dairy farmers when they are assessing their own cost of rearing against what is considered to be an industry average. For farmers that are considerably above the ‘average’ they may choose to try and reduce costs by decreasing feeding rations or the amount of bedding they add to heifer accommodation or the use of vaccination or worming treatments. All of these could have a detrimental effect on the heifer in terms of their health and welfare and ending up costing the farmer more due to increased incidence of disease and subsequent loss of appetite and body condition.
This study builds on previous work undertaken at the Royal Veterinary College that highlighted the importance of managing dairy heifers well to improve fertility and longevity by evaluating the economics of such decisions. Heifers are the future of the dairy herd and their rearing is important if the herd is to be sustainable and heifer wastage reduced.