Heifer Rearing – Lessons From BCBC Conference

Rose shares some lessons for successful heifer breeding shared by Roger Hildreth from Curlow Fields Farm at the BCBC (British Cattle Breeders Club) Conference

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Rose attended the BCBC (British Cattle Breeders club) Conference in January. She shares some lessons learned about heifer breeding from Roger Hildreth.

Tips For Successful Heifer Rearing

At the BCBC conference in January, Roger Hildreth from Curlow Fields Farm in Yorkshire shared his tips for successful heifer rearing.

Calf Rearing Costs

The UK average age at first calving is 26 months and the costs associated with this are around £1800. However, there is quite a range; if we achieve the ideal of 22-24 months, we can save ~£300 in rearing costs.

However, if we miss the boat and calve them down at 32 months, it will cost £2500 to get them to calving. Roger Hildreth estimates that, on average, it costs him £2.87 per day for every day over 24 months so it is easy to see how these costs can stack up.

Colostrum Management

Roger is very consistent with his colostrum management, quality is checked using a BRIX refractometer (£13 off eBay!) and each calf receives two feeds of 3l in the first 12 hours. He aims to achieve 90kg body weight by 8 weeks by feeding 875g milk powder per calf per day. He has a maximum calf group size of 6 and does not move the groups around at any stage.

Roger recommends also weighing heifers whilst out at grass as the grass quality is so variable from year to year and supplementary feed may sometimes be required. He aims to achieve 55-60% of mature body weight at first service.

Genomic Testing

Mr Hildreth also advocates the use of genomic testing in heifer calves but stressed that it is essential to do something with the results!

He sells any heifer calves with £PLI (Profitable Lifetime Index) of <£275 to a calf rearer. He has had some astonishing results from the genomic testing; one set of twins had an expected £PLI of £346 based on their parent average, genomic testing revealed that one twin was slightly worse off at £251 but one came in at only £129, which equates to an expected difference of £244 between the twins over their lifetime!

Scarsdale Vets offer a bespoke genomic testing service through Clarifide, the veterinary lead genomic service; speak to one of the vets for more information.

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