DairyNZ issues heifer weight warning

SUE O'DOWD
Last updated 06:49 06/03/2014

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Taranaki farmers are being urged to check their heifers as dry weather starts to affect feed availability.

DairyNZ Taranaki regional team leader Katrina Knowles said farmers should plan now to prevent wastage, whether their heifers were on the farm or away grazing.

"If pastures are getting dry on your farm, then chances are it's the same at your grazier's, so check in with them, see how things are going."

Farmers should also monitor heifers on their own farms.

Good heifer rearing was needed to achieve good reproductive performance, including meeting liveweight breeding value (BV) targets.

"Heifers that meet their targets will produce more milk and have better reproductive performance in their lifetime," she said.

She is encouraging farmers to weigh their heifers, monitor them against BV targets and give them extra feed if they need it.

LIC reproduction solutions adviser Joyce Voogt said many heifers on New Zealand dairy farms were not growing well enough to achieve target liveweights, and that would negatively affect their ability to produce, reproduce and survive.

A recent LIC study found that heifers 10 per cent below their BV target produced around 40kg less milk solids in their first two lactations and took longer to get in-calf. The lightest 10 per cent were also five times more likely to be empty than the heaviest 10 per cent.

"Many farmers have experienced the disappointment of having underweight heifers come back from grazing. They are often forgotten as the unseen members of the herd away from the farm."

But they were important animals for the farm's future. "Rearing heifers is a large investment for a farm, whether it's on the farm or with a grazier, and underweight heifers can have a long-term impact on a farm's performance and bottom line."

Farmers should contact their graziers and work with them to ensure the maximum return on their investment, she said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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