Monitoring heifer performance
Monitoring the performance of dairy heifer replacements is necessary to ensure that targets set at the start of the rearing program are being met. Recording weights, wither heights and body condition score allows you to benchmark the performance of your heifer replacements against known standards (Figure 4) and can indicate problem areas that require attention.
Figure 4. Heifer Growth Rate Guide (Holstein)
Animals should be weighed several times a year in order to obtain meaningful results on which to base management decisions. Measurements which can be taken include:
heifers should be weighed regularly to ensure that target liveweights and liveweight gains are being met. If suitable weighing facilities are not available a weighband can be used to monitor bodyweight. Measurements taken by students at Greenmount Campus have shown good agreement between values recorded using a weigh bridge or a weighband. Always ensure that there are adequate handling facilities when weighing heifers.
Weighbands can accurately assess heifer weights
- Wither height
this is a measure of the skeletal development of the animal. Animals which are too small will not breed as well and may experience calving difficulties
- Body condition score
this can be useful to determine if animals are too fat or thin as they approach calving