What happens when heifers fail to meet growth goals?

Posted: March 4, 2016 | Written By: Brant Groen, Form-A-Feed Dairy Wellness Director

dairy cow

Most dairy producers want their heifers to grow bigger and faster, but how often are we actually reaching those goals?  If your heifers are not reaching growth goals, you could be sacrificing health, productivity, cost, and calving age.


To raise healthier and faster growing heifers (from birth to calving), that will calve at the correct height and weight, you should follow the goals listed in the chart, and keep the following principles in mind:

  1. Optimization of metabolizable protein during all stages of heifer growth.
  2. Optimization of macro and micronutrient fortification for maximum economic growth and heifer health.
  3. Monitoring body condition during all stages of heifer growth.
  4. Maximizing return on investment for all heifers during all stages of growth.
  5. Developing heifers that will achieve their genetic potential after calving.

When monitoring growth on heifers, one always needs to think about the development of her skeleton or frame.  A ration with adequate energy but low in protein will result in a short, fat heifer, so feeding the correct amount and type of protein is very essential.  During all stages of the heifer’s growth, they should be fed the correct amount and type of forages. A precise amount of macro and micro minerals are required for bone development, feet and leg development and to maximize the heifer’s immunity.

The bottom line: there is no time in the heifer’s growth cycle that one can cut corners without costing more money and productivity down the road. Dave Lahr – Lead Ruminant Nutritionist at Form-A-Feed developed this chart to help understand what happens when heifer growth goals are not met.

Failure to Meet Growth Goals

Stage Cost Health Productivity Increased Calving Age?
Wet Calf Increased Decreased Decreased Yes
Weaning/Transition Increased Decreased Decreased Yes
Transition to Breeding Increased Decreased Yes
Breeding to Calving Decreased Decreased No


As you can see, every stage of growth is important.  When the animal fails to meet growth goals, its health and productivity are negatively affected and cost and calving age is increased.

Form-A-Feed has developed a heifer raising program called PerFourMax 21.  The PerFourMax 21 program follows the principles listed in this article to help producers raise healthier and faster growing heifers (from birth to calving) that will calve at the correct height, weight and maturity at an earlier age to achieve faster payback on their investment!

To learn more about the PerFourMax 21 Heifer Program and to establish growth goals on your dairy, contact a Form-A-Feed representative.

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