Host Katie Wantoch and Mark Hagedorn, retired Extension Dairy Program Manager, discuss a farmer who wants to know if they should sell pregnant dairy cattle heifers now or wait to sell these animals until after the cow has had her calf.
This is UW Extension’s Farm Management “AgriVision” podcast. I am Katie Wantoch, Agriculture Agent with UW-Madison Division of Extension. I will be chatting with fellow Extension educators as we answer questions from farmers and share our knowledge and expertise on how you can improve your farm management skills.
Well welcome, everyone. And on today’s podcast, I am joined by Mark Hagedorn, the UW Madison Division of Extension’s Dairy Program Manager, and we’re going to be talking today about whether we should be including springing heifers or selling them as fresh cows. So in our case study question today, the farmer is milking 160 Holstein cows and farming about 225 acres in southwestern Wisconsin. Their herd average is 24,000 pounds with a 3.7% fat test. They have 20 heifers that are due to calve here in September. Originally, they were planning to expand their herd a bit and milk those heifers, but they had to cut production 10% this spring of 2020 and thinking increasing their cow numbers probably is not a good plan.
So they’re posing a question to us Mark about what are springing heifers bringing now? Is anyone buying them? Am I better off selling them as springers or freshening out and selling them as fresh cows? Would fresh cows be worth more than springing heifers? So Mr. Hagedorn, do you have any advice for this farmer?
Oh, thanks for asking, Katie. I think this is a good question. And in the current set of circumstances in which we’re dealing one may be correct in hesitating to expand paired with the volatility and commodity prices and supply and demand levels that we’re currently seeing, going through, and I certainly hope coming out of this COVID-19 pandemic.
You’d need to research your local market prices and determine if there is a price difference between selling springing heifers and fresh cows. I think you may need to consider what will be the risk versus reward to holding on to your springing heifers. The risks of course, would be feeding these springers, reducing inventory and feed, potential calving issues as you calve have these animals out, lower production in the first year from first calf heifers versus what you would typically achieve and receive from a second, third or fourth lactation cow. On the positive side. If you retain or sell, you’ll have the calf that’s born. You potentially will have better genetics and these heifers going into the herd than what you may have with an existing fresh cow if you were to swap these animals out.
You also need to take a look at longevity within the herd. Heifers obviously are going to last longer than what you will experience with a second, third, fourth lactation animal.
You’ll be making an investment in the springer that will take a little bit longer time to realize return.
You’re already reaping the benefits from the mature cows. So you may not be as efficient. But right at the moment, you’re got that potential that should allow you to spread her value out over time. Many decisions to consider as you’re looking at this and it’s going to be very specific to your dairy operation and how it’s going to impact the bottom line. But as we wrap this conversation up, be very aware of what the local market for both heifers and cows are, take a good long look at the genetic potential in the animals that you would be injecting into the herd versus the cows that you already have in the herd. And as we stated just a little earlier, it’s a risk reward thing. So take a moment to think and good luck!
Alright, well, thanks, Mark. Appreciate that feedback. And this was Mark Hagedorn, UW Madison Division of Extension’s Dairy Program Manager, and I am Katie Wantoch, Agriculture Agent with Extension in Dunn County.
For more Extension “AgriVision” podcasts or resources to improve your farm management skills, check out https://farms.extension.wisc.edu/. Thanks for listening.
Information in this article was originally published as part of the Agrivision column in the Wisconsin Agriculturist.
UW-Madison Extension information