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A 700 lb heifer is estimated to cost around $1.90 per day with a 15 cent slide upward or a 10 cent slide downward for each 100 lbs. of bodyweight (after weaning). Breeding costs are not included.

This figure will vary greatly, even up to 50 cents per head per day depending upon management! Thus, it is important to know your costs whether raising yours or someone else’s heifers.

In 1998, the average cost to raise a heifer was $1,595. Just nine years later, the cost has risen to $2,149 with all calf costs included. As costs rise, how can dairy producers reduce the cost of raising one of their operation’s greatest assets without giving up quality and keeping age at first calving low. 

Feed cost needs to be the focal point when it comes to reducing overall cost in a heifer raising operation. Testing feed stuffs cuts down on the use of unnecessary supplements and reduces the chances of over-conditioned heifers. Feeding ionophores also increases feed efficiency reducing unnecessary feed costs.

Reduction in death loss, especially as baby calves is crucial. Investment in well designed calf housing has reduced death loss to near zero on certain operations for healthy born calves.

Intensive grazing of dairy heifers can reduce cost of labor and feed by reducing manure management and the feeding of harvested forages. It can offer one of the best alternatives to reducing feed and labor costs. Animals that were rationally grazed had an average daily gain of 1.5 to 2.1 lbs. on a season length of 144 to 181 days. The number of acres per animal ranged from 0.4 to 1.3.

Have the pasture tested for nutrient quality and feed only the supplements needed.

Adapted from the following resource: "How Can Heifer Raising Costs be Reduced Without Sacrificing Quality?" Fact Sheet LT-102, July, 2008 Dr. Larry Tranel, ISU Dairy Field Specialist and Dubuque County Extension Director Elizabeth Gaul, ISU Extension Dairy Intern

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