$$$$ to Raise a Heifer
During a presentation last Friday (January 24, 2014) Dr. Dave Combs from the Dairy Science Dept at Univ. Wisconsin presented some numbers about the cost of raising heifers. He quoted from Vanderwerf et al.,"Survey of 32 dairy farms and custom heifer raising operations (no pasture based farms)" 2013 UW-Extension.
The 2013 total cost was $2,274. This included feed ($1,274 - 56%), labor (16%), bedding (5%), veterinary, breeding, electric and fuel, interest, death loss, and management. This may be compared to 2007 when the total cost was $1,323. At that time feed cost was $683 (52% of total).
Much of the $951 increase from 2007 to 2013 was in feed cost - $591.
These feeds costs were broken out by stage of growth.
2007 2013 Percent increase
Birth to 10 weeks $314 $340 8%
10 weeks to freshening $370 $934 152%
Notice how little the feed cost increased for the early stage in life.
My take on this? If one is looking for a way to reduce the cost of raising heifers the period from birth to 10 weeks is the wrong place to look. Keep feeding them to realize their genetic potential to grow. And, their feed conversion efficiency will be better later in life.
How to save $ on heifer costs? Raise only the number of heifers needed on the dairy - but that is another topic all together.