Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Weighing in for genetic gains

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Farmers need to be weighing heifers after grazing to keep genetic gains.
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Farmers are losing genetic gains in heifers by not weighing their cattle, says an animal performance manager.

New data from LIC shows that too many farmers are not weighing their heifers when they return from grazing – and are missing out on big genetic gains as a result.

The data, collected from LIC’s MINDA software, showed that at 22 months, heifers on average are around 4-5% below MINDA guidelines.

LIC animal performance manager Steve Forsman says farmers need to do their replacement stock justice by properly growing their rising one- and two-year-olds to all the target liveweights.

This is a significant sign that the heifers are being looked after by the farmer’s grazier, who they are paying to ensure the animals are properly grown when they arrive back to the farm.

In a group of 425,000 2021-born heifers – roughly half of those born of that year – less than half had their weights recorded through MINDA, he says.

“The number of people weighing heifers is ridiculously low still. The silly thing is that farmers are weighing them, but not entering the weights in.” 

Some also are still appraising their heifers by a visual assessment.

While some professional grazing companies weigh heifers as part of their service, the onus is still on the farmer to know these numbers.

Forsman says the numbers translate to big bucks.

Each percentage gain toward the 22-month liveweight target represents an additional 2kg of milksolids in the animal’s first year of production. 

On a national basis, at a $5 payout,that extra 2kq equates to $10 million in extra revenue across the industry if the number of replacement heifers totals 1 million.

“If you’re having issues and you want to know whether or not if your heifers are contributing to that, you’ll never know unless you weigh them,” Forsman says.

The farmers who are recoding their heifer weights are usually on top of their cow health management, he says.

“Farmers that are weighing their heifers are hitting their industry milestones,” he says. 

This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

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