Defining the dairy’s goals for heifer rearing

Establishing a set of goals and finding out where the dairy is in relationship to those goals is the first step to making change. The purpose of this worksheet is to establish the farm’s current state of heifer rearing and build a set of goals to work towards. Not every factor listed will be important to every farm and not every farm is currently monitoring each of these parameters, but going through the process of writing values down and comparing them to some recommendations will help producers think about all the important stages in heifer rearing.

The following are some recommended heifer goals gleaned from the literature.
Heifer ME305Greater than the cows
First lactation peak milkAbout 75 to 80% of the cows
Age at first calving22 to 24 months
Body weight at calving1300-1350 lb for Holsteins, 900 lb for Jerseys
Height of heifer at calving54-55 inches for Holsteins, 48-50 inches for Jerseys
Age at first breeding12-13 months (51 inches tall Holsteins, 43 Jerseys)
Age at puberty9 months (at 55% of mature body weight)
Weaning age45 to 60 days (variable)
Average daily gain post-puberty2 lb/day for Holsteins, 1.2 lb/day Jerseys
Average daily gain pre-puberty2.0 to 2.2 lb/day Holsteins, 1.4 lb/day Jerseys
Pre-weaning Heifer mortalityLess than 3% (variable)
Pre-weaning Diarrhea incidenceLess than 25%
Pre-weaning Pneumonia incidenceLess than 15%
Peri-natal mortality (1 to 48 hours)Less than 5%
DOA (dead at birth)Less than 8% Heifers, Less than 4% Cows
% Calves with serum total proteins >5.5More than 85%

Download a heifer goals worksheet.

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  • Chester-Jones H, Linn J. Effect of nutrition and management of dairy heifers on resultant cow longevity. University of Minnesota Extension. 2006.
  • Heinrichs J, Lammers B. Monitoring dairy heifer growth. The Pennsylvania State University. 1998. 5m498PS.
  • Kilmer L, Bentley J. Leave no calf left behind. Iowa State University.