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Producer Application Committee:

Manage Heifer Development

Research reveals management practices that affect lifetime productivity in heifers.

by Kasey Brown, associate editor, Angus Journal®

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (June 13, 2013) — It is incredibly important to develop heifers into productive cows for your herd, said beef specialist Jack Whittier, Colorado State University. Research has shown that specific management practices can “program” heifers into productive cows, he told attendees of the Producer Application Committee breakout during the 45th Annual Beef Improvement Federation Research Symposium and Convention in Oklahoma City June 12-15.


“My dad always said, ‘Once an early calver, always an early calver.’ This was based on observations, but there was some truth to it,” Whittier began. He presented three case studies of research that proved this correct, and added seven principles to managing heifers. His three case studies cited Lesmeister, Funston and French.


Principle 1: Heifers that conceive early as yearlings during their first breeding season appear to be “programmed” for productive lives.


Principle 2: Early-born calves perform better than late-born calves.


Principle 3: Release of dominance expressed as heterosis in reproductive traits is real.


Principle 4: Heifers born early in relation to herdmates have a higher likelihood of conceiving early in the breeding season.


Principle 5: Early-born heifers tend to calve early.


Principle 6: Steer progeny from early-calving cows produce higher-value carcasses (heavier and higher quality) than late-calving cows.


Principle 7: Yearling heifers that respond to estrous synchronization and conceive early to artificial insemination (AI) produce higher lifetime revenue than those that conceive later to natural services.


These principles “program” heifers for a productive life with older, heavier calves and more calves in the long run.


Estrous synchronization is a tool to produce early-calving heifers. He added that heifers born to AI are more valuable, as much as $922, than cows sired by cleanup bulls.


Whittier suggested that, when resources allow, producers retain a higher percentage of heifer calves and develop them on a modest (adequate), less-expensive rate of gain. Synchronize and AI the heifers without using cleanup bulls. Preg-check early, which lends to selection for fertility and leaves stocker options available for open heifers. This “programs” productive and profitable cows for your operation.


Return to the Newsroom for links to the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied this presentation.


Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

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Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., API publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus Journal Daily, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the Angus Journal Virtual Library.

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