Replacement Heifers: Picking Out the Best of the Best

If you’re wanting to expand your herd or replace older cows, raising your own heifers is a low cost solution. You’ll have to wait a couple years to see results, but staying out of debt isn’t a bad idea either. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself when thinking about who to save and who to sell.

What Was Her Mother Like?

It’s the same with cows as it is with people- daughters usually turn out like their mothers. If a heifer’s mother had trouble calving, was slow to breed, or had a bad disposition, then you don’t need those genes getting into your herd. On the other hand, if she was protective, calm, long-lived, and gave her calves plenty of milk, then you should consider keeping any of heifer calves.

When Was She Born?

It’s best to save the heifers that were born at the beginning of the calving season, say the first fort-five days or so. Heifers born in the first twenty-one days are even better. If she was born early in the season, that means she will reach breeding age earlier and be able to give you a calf sooner.

Is She Healthy?

Avoid saving anyone with foot or leg problems. Super straight hocks will cause a lot of trouble later. If she’s had a history of scours or other calf illnesses, she should be culled. Oftentimes, calves who didn’t get enough colostrum at birth (and you know who they are) never turn out to be much, and seem to be chronically sick and depressed.

What’s Her Personality Like?

If she’s skittish and nervous, it would be best to sell her so she doesn’t wreak havoc later on. Likewise if she doesn’t cooperate when you’re trying to work cattle. But if she’s gentle and easy to get along with, then she’s worth keeping. Sometimes you’ll have a cow that is easy to work, but also super sassy and playful. Those are the best kind to have because they’re gentle yet have a lot of spirit at the same time.

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