Dairy

Dairy Benchmarking: Collecting Heifer Data to Uncover Opportunities

Management : Calf & Heifer Care

Gary Geisler,

Calf and Heifer Specialist – Wisconsin

Are you weighing and measuring your calves?

It can help you understand if your heifer nutrition program is delivering. 

Investing in nutrition is the first step to keep calves growing and on track to achieve their full potential. Collecting and reviewing heifer growth data can shed light on opportunities in nutrition, management or the environment to move your heifer raising program forward. 

1. Gather baseline metrics

Measure weights and hip heights during these times: 
  • Birth
  • Weaning 
  • 4 to 6 months
Make note of the measurements in your dairy herd management software. 

2. Set goals

Compare your animals’ weights and heights to industry benchmarks, such as the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards. Does your herd meet or exceed these growth benchmarks?

Answers can help pinpoint areas you’re doing well, opportunities for improvement, as well as uncover areas for further evaluation.

Tap into outside experts, such as your Purina calf and heifer specialist, veterinarian or nutritionist to help fine-tune goals and management practices to optimize your heifer raising program.

3. Measure progress

Evaluate goals on an ongoing basis. If frequent monitoring isn’t possible for all heifers, focus on the youngest. 

Don’t overlook evaluating:
  • Treatment costs
  • Mortality rate
  • Heifer pregnancy rate
  • First lactation milk production

4. Calculate success

Use the data you have collected to evaluate the success of your heifer raising program over time. Has your cost per pound of weight gain improved? Could it improve more?  

Then, look at other areas of opportunity to set new goals and keep moving forward on your herd’s progress.