A strong heifer nutrition program is crucial towards optimizing animal growth an development.
Here are the following tips to get most from your heifers nutrition program:
1. Avoid post-weaning lag
Many calf raising programs will experience a "lag phase" when calves are moved from the hutches to group pens.
However, those that require calves to consume 2.5 - 3.5kg of calf starter grain mix per day before leaving the hutch experience less lag and often see better performance during the transition to groups.
In order to further improve performance, wait to introduce hay in the ration until the animals are in group pens for around a week.
Include forage in the ration at 3 % and increase in post weaning diets to about 20 - 25% by the time they have a fully developed rumen.
It usually takes about 4 - 6 months before the rumen becomes large enough in relation to the animal's body to handle high forage, high volume diets.
Make sure the heifers have sufficient access to clean and fresh water at all times.
Keep the group size to around 10 - 20 head per pen
2. Maximize grower phase
From the time heifer calves are weaned until they reach about 450 pounds (200kg), it is very possible to achieve average daily gains of 2 - 2.75 pounds (0.9 - 1.2kg) per day or more.
In order to make sure this performance is on track, weigh the calves as they leave individual pens and again at 150 - 160 days old.
This information will help measure total cost per pound or kg gain and aid in feedstuff sourcing decisions.
While it is tempting to include lower digestible ingredients to decrease ration cost, the potential dip it weight is not worth the cost savings.
It is recommended to feed high quality feedstuff to improve growth and performance of the calf at this stage.
Adequate growth during this phase would mean that heifers achieve height and weight goals in a proper manner and ready for breeding at the optimal time.
It is recommended to breed heifers at about 55% of the dam's mature bodyweight.
3. Upgrade the breeding phase
Breeding phase offers one more chance to positively affect the heifer development through nutrition.
Once the heifer is pregnant, the goal is to maintain growth of around 1.9 pounds (0.86 kg) per day or more without adding too much condition.
Rations should not be too high in energy as they are not yet lactating.
It is also important to formulate close up rations to provide sufficient levels of metabolize protein.
The fetus and mammary gland are developing at a very fast rate when the end of gestation nears, thus requiring increased metabolized protein and energy, while dry matter intake is declining.
When there is not enough metabolizable protein and energy, the animal will begin to mobilize protein and fat.
One of the most common mistake in this phase is not having springing heifers on the close up diet for more than 28 days before calving.
Hence, it si important to calculate days with calf for each animal.
Move heifers to the close up en before they reach 250 days with calf.
Lastly, remember that heifer development is essential and should be considered an opportunity.