Weighing calves multiple times before they go into the milking herd is beneficial for many reasons.
We’re just going to cover a few of the reasons when and why we weigh every single calf that comes in and goes out of our barn.
- When? At birth
You need a starting point. We use this weight to track average birth weight, and we will use this number in the near future to monitor ADG in the first 8 weeks of life.
- When? At weaning or shortly after (when you do a pen move)
This is a great time to check-in and see how you are doing. It’s a quick and easy way to start assessing your pre-wean program and it gives you the ability to track any changes you make in your pre-wean program. This is by no means the only data you should look at, but it will help to determine the success of your pre-wean program and help you pinpoint any areas that could improve.
Another thing that weighing heifers at this point can be used for is culling decisions. You can set a benchmark for your farm, and use this data to decide who is up to your standards, and who needs to go. It’s a great tool to help keep the best of the best in the herd and better manage heifer inventory.
At this point (depending on breed) heifers should be gaining at least 1.60-2.00 pounds per day.
If your heifers struggle during this time frame, look into maternity, sanitation, nutrition, stressors, and ventilation.
- When? Sometime between 5 months and breeding.
This is another good time to weigh heifers. At this point in her life, (again, depending on breed) she should be consistently gaining right around 2.00 pounds of body weight per day. This can help determine things like what your age at first calving should be, culling decisions, and it will also show you what is working and what isn’t working between weaning and the next weigh-in time.
If your heifers struggle during this time, are they getting a high enough quality diet? Is the housing subpar, causing pneumonia, feet and leg problems, or other issues that arise in heifers?
Knowing your cost per pound gained is also huge benefit to weighing your calves. If you are spending a lot of money on your calves, do you know for a fact that it’s paying off? Weighing calves and knowing your costs will help you determine how much it costs your calves to gain one pound, and that information can also be used to reduce those costs without compromising growth.
Heifer program changes, culling standards, tracking cost per pound of gain, and finding areas of improvement are all benefits to taking the time to weigh your calves and heifers. Outside of health records (which are non-negotiable), these are another awesome tool to add to your toolbox to use for tracking your heifer program success, and one of the many things you should use when making management decisions and changes.
When deciding if a change is working, “feeling like the calves look better” is not a good way to make choices. That can end up costing you a lot of money and getting absolutely nothing out of it. Weigh your calves!
When do you weigh your heifers? Why? What do you do with that information?