Nutritional Development of Replacement Heifers: Intensive Versus Extensive Systems

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Eric Bailey
Assistant Professor, Animal Sciences
Jordan Thomas
Assistant Professor, Animal Sciences

Replacement females are the lifeblood of beef cow herds, and heifers that conceive early in the first breeding season have greater lifetime production. Not all heifers are created equal when it comes to their potential as replacements. Identifying the best replacements from the cow herd and managing properly boosts the profit potential of the operation. Nutrition is an important management tool for influencing when heifers attain puberty, and nutritional management should result in heifers initiating estrous cyclicity prior to the start of their first breeding season. However, many producers invest excessive feed resources in striving to maximize heifer pregnancy rate. In severe cases, investment in feed can be a drain on long-term profitability. Feed costs account for 60–70% of heifer development costs. This publication aims to provide insight on prudent nutritional management of developing heifers while discussing the pros and cons of various heifer development systems.