Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How are the heifers doing?

This is the universal question - I ask it every time I am on a farm or meet a client.

Hidden, however, in this question is another question. That one is, "How do I measure the development of my heifers?"

An associate recently shared an Excel spreadsheet he uses to summarize the information collected from the heifers on his clients dairies. 

As you already would guess the first five columns in the spreadsheet are these:

ID  BirthDate  MeasurementDate  Weight  Height

He and the dairyman agreed on the development goals - mature cow weight and height.

Then, the next two columns are what caught my attention. They are:

                                           MatureBodyWeight  MatureHeight
                                             (Percent)                    (Percent)

For a 2 month old                     11.0                          56.9
For a 5 month old                     25.7                          70.0
For a 12 month old                   55.7                          80.0

As I scanned the spreadsheet I picked up some contrasts that began to raise questions about the heifer enterprise. For example, let's compare two sets of heifers:

One heifer 1.7 months old       10.4                           56.9
One heifer 2.2 months old         8.3                           55.2

What is happening to have the second heifer 15 days older than the first weighing only 125 pounds  compared to her pen mate at 156 pounds?

or these two heifers:

One heifer 4.1 months old       25.0                           67.5
One heifer 5.6 months old       25.3                           71.7

What is happening to have the second heifer, 45 days older than the first, at the same weight?

The percent of goal achieved works quite well in capturing the variation in rate of development. You might want to try adding these columns to your growth spreadsheet.

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