Balancing Genetic Potential for Happy Heifers

Balancing Genetic Potential for Happy Heifers

Balancing Genetic Potential for Happy Heifers

Capitalising on the first two years of growth with breeding and nutrition are crucial for raising happy and healthy heifers to lead a strong dairy herd.

Heifers grow in height and weight at the fastest rate from birth to the mammary development.

Acknowledging a number of factors that weigh into raising heifers, Manildra Head of Stockfeed Tim Wirth said the goal was well-grown and properly fed heifers prepared to calve at 22-24 months of age.

Mr Wirth said neglecting nutrition in feeding and preventive health management could stunt heifer growth to delay calving past 24 months and decrease lifetime milk production.

“Incorporating the right supplementary feed into diets guarantees a steady consistency of healthy weight gain without creating over-fat heifers,” Mr Wirth said.

“Under-size heifers are not only less productive, they’re more prone to calving problems, and overweight heifers reduce milk production longevity.”

Veterinary Adjunct Professor Ian Lean – a leading authority in Australian dairy cattle medicine, nutrition, and management – said earlier weight gained could be most efficient as heifers gain muscle before gaining fat later in life.

“Our focus is on muscle gain and the development of the skeleton in these early years,” Dr Lean said.

He told The Cultivator how previous dairy management practices set a standard weight gain target of 0.7 kilograms a day for Holstein heifers from weaning to calving – “but we now understand that 0.9 kilograms a day through to first calving, is desirable and easily achieved”.

“To achieve these results, a heifer’s diet requires an energy density of 11 megajoules per kilogram, at 18 per cent crude protein decreasing with age to 14 per cent just before calving – and must also include calcium, phosphorus and magnesium for bone development and health.

“Making this shift allows farmers to tap into a heifer’s potential and see increases in weight gain, production and milk yield.”

Dr Lean said sound management practices worked in combination with key nutritional principles to support optimisation of a herd’s genetic potential.

Accounting for Australian soil trace element deficiencies against optimal nutritional requirements, Dr Lean recommends dairy farmers incorporate Manildra Stockfeed DDG-S (Dried Distillers Grains and Syrups) Dairy Pellets into a balanced diet.

“With a unique source of proteins and non-fibre carbohydrates formulated as part of a performance diet, the pellets maximise weight gain in early years to enhance cows’ growth and wellbeing,” he said.

Dr Lean said the DDG-S Dairy Pellets delivered 20 per cent crude protein with a metabolisable energy of 12.7 megajoules per kilogram, along with high-quality trace elements and vitamins to protect against diseases, enhance growth and boost healthy development.

“The DDG-S Dairy Pellets can also help to control coccidiosis – a form of infection and inflammation in the intestines – which can be a problem particularly in weaners,” he said.

Mr Wirth said Manildra Stockfeed’s 15-year partnership with animal nutrition leaders such as Dr Lean shared “second-to-none” expertise in the dairy industry with a commitment to the “science, quality and best-practice at the heart of our tailored feed solutions”.

“We understand that heifers are a significant investment for a dairy farm and how crucial it is for them to calve quickly, without any difficulty, to produce milk well and return to calving with ease,” said Mr Wirth.

“Manildra Stockfeed’s science-based and costeffective performance feed solution delivers optimised heifer growth for sustainable, consistent weight gains that increase healthy milk yields.”

For details on the full range of Manildra Stockfeed products, contact our specialist sales team on 02 4423 8300 or