An inside look at how we raise the heifers
The Heifer Authority, LLC has over 7,000 heifers on hand at any given time. The facility receives heifers around four to five months of age and returns them as springers. Heifers stay at the facility for approximately 16 months.
We find most of the important things in a pre-breeding-age heifers occur the first 24 hours off the truck through the first month. All heifers are screened for persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea virus (PI BVD) when they arrive. At this operation it’s not only mandatory to test for BVD PI, but we require the use of non-pooled testing.
That being the case, controlling disease in heifers that arrive from herds that are hundreds or even thousands of miles a way becomes paramount. The THA operation vaccinates for all of the major viruses, Salmonella, Clostridia and leptospirosis.
Heifers are vaccinated for viruses, lepto and Clostridia upon arrival, four weeks later and then boostered a year later. While you can see just about any disease complex in heifers this age, the most common disease in this age group of heifers by far is pneumonia, followed by diarrhea and then eye/ear problems.
Communicate With the Heifer Owners
THA works with the originating dairies and their herd veterinarians to initiate a “pre-arrival” vaccine protocol at the dairy before heifers ever arrive so that protection against Pasteurella and Salmonella are already on board when the heifer arrives. We have the most successful heifer outcomes when the pre-arrival program is followed. Compliance with this is sometimes an issue so we try to keep communication open by sending monthly health event reports as well as monitoring weight of heifers at arrival and throughout the program.
That communication extends to the condition of heifers on arrival where the loads are graded. If there are too many heifers under-weight or there appear to be more pneumonias, lameness or other diseases off the truck than there should be, the owners are contacted immediately.
Proper nutrition all the way through the heifer raising program is important. We monitor the status of the heifer, her nutrition and her overall progress by watching ADG. Heifers are weighed at arrival, at about 11 months of age and if there are no problems, then not again until the week they leave.
We use ADG to monitor nutrition status. We shoot for an ADG from arrival to 22 months of 2 pounds of gain per day. We’ve watched milk production and breeding on heifers returning to the dairies under this program and they have performed as good and in many cases better than previously. Under our program heifers calve on their home dairies around 22–23 months of age at 1,400 pounds.