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Farm Animal Practice
Targets for rearing dairy heifers - weaning to calving
  1. Bridget Drew

    Bridget Drew graduated in agriculture from Leeds University and started her career at the Bridgets Research Centre, Winchester, working mainly with calves and dairy heifers. After a period in general consultancy, she specialised in the fertility of dairy cows and completed a PhD in 1982. In 1986, she was appointed the South East Regional Livestock specialist. She moved back to ADAS Bridgets as director in 1990, where she is responsible for the dairy research programme involving over 700 highyielding dairy cows and 500 calves and heifers.


THE management of dairy heifers between weaning and calving has a considerable effect on potential milk yield, fertility, the incidence of difficult calvings, and longevity. Insufficient growth during the rearing period results in small-framed heifers with disappointing milk yields, low pregnancy rates and delayed entry into the herd. Milk production potential will be maximised when heifers are reared to a plan, with careful control over performance at all stages of the rearing period. Target growth rates and intermediate target weights should be set as soon as the date of first calving has been predicted. Optimal growth rates will depend on age at calving, estimated mature body size, management after calving and the average herd yield. The targets given in this article are for Holstein/Friesian heifers calving at two years of age.

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