The Cost to Calving Springing Heifers After 24 Months

Posted: November 29, 2016 | Written By: Tim Kinches, Form-A-Feed Dairy Production and Nutrition Specialist

Calving at 24 months

The best age to calve a first calf heifer is 24 months. Or is it? Every month I look at calving data from thousands of animals and I have come to find that it really depends. In every herd’s youngstock program, there is a point that growing a heifer one month longer yields them no benefit, and in most cases, it starts doing harm to fresh milk production.

There is very little benefit to calving heifers later than 24 months. On a recent review of 7,000 first lactation calvings, 29% of the heifers that calved were 26.8 months old. If we assume that the goal is to have every heifer calved by 24 months of age, what does it cost a dairy to have 29% of their first lactation cows calve 2.8 months (85 days) later? To analyze this we need to look at three numbers: the cost to feed a springing heifer, the average cost to feed a lactating cow, and milk price.

Let’s assume the following:

It costs $1.75/day to feed a springing heifer, $5.00/day to feed an average lactation cow, and the milk price is $16.00/cwt.

First, if we get all of our heifers to calve by 24 months, we will save on heifer feed cost:

85 days x $1.75 =$149

However, we will spend money on Lactation feed:

85 days x $5.00 =$425

We get the benefit of milk production in this same time period:

85 Days x 80 lbs. x $16.00/cwt=$1,088

$1,088 + $149 – $425 = $812 of extra revenue generated for every heifer that is calved 2.8 months earlier.


A 100 cow dairy will calve about 40 heifers each year, and 11 of these heifers on average, will calve after 24 months old. This mean this 100 cow dairy could make an additional $8,930 per year in profit just by making sure everything is calved by 24 months old.

There are some basic assumptions made in these calculations and not all variables are taken into account, but you can see that the return on a high level of nutrition and reproduction can return you significantly in your youngstock program. I will be presenting a more in depth analysis at the 2017 Form-A-Feed Professional Dairy Conference on Jan 19-20, 2017. The presentation will also talk about finding the correct age at calving for your operation and how we can find this age by using fresh cow milk production. I look forward to seeing you all at the conference! Ask your local Form-A-Feed representative on how you can take your youngstock program to the next level and capture the benefits of not delaying the age at calving for your heifers