Senwes Scenario June / July 2019 - Page 22

AGRICULTURAL Replacement heifers With good management the best asset class on your farm If a cattle farmer had to categorise the different production cycles of his herd of cattle in different asset classes as investment possibilities, there would be different investment possibilities for the different asset classes, with different return possibilities. One such an asset class in the portfolio of every farmer, would be replacement heifers.  By Phillip Lee Hinterland Manager: Livestock Solutions U nfortunately it is this very important asset class which often does not perform as desired, with long-term nega- tive financial consequences. In this article we will be looking at reasons for this pro­ blem and how to address the problem as asset managers. THE REPLACEMENT HEIFER By definition a replacement heifer is a female animal which naturally develops in such a manner as to reach approximately 66% of her mature weight at the age of approximately 18 months, by which time she can be mated successfully and will give birth to a live calf at approximately 85% of her mature weight. She should also have a 90% chance of reconception and she has to wean at least 45% of her own body weight. She is also expected to wean a calf every year for the next 10 to 12 years with a total TKP of < 400 days. It is clear from the definition of a replacement heifer that expectations are very high and we can understand why the return (calf percentages, weaning mass 20 SENWES SCENARIO | WINTER 2019 and reconception percentage) is often disappointing. THE ROLE OF GOOD MANAGEMENT The influence of the fund manager in respect of the specific asset class can- not be over-emphasised. It includes all aspects of herd management - from supervision and health management to nutritional management and selection. We see far too often in practice that heifers are kept in a hillside camp and almost for- gotten about to make them 'tough' - defi- nitely the recipe for poor returns. The same applies when the replace- ment group is incorporated with the rest of the cow herd too soon. The guideline is to manage replacement heifers as replace- ment heifers, until they have been certified by a veterinary surgeon as being pregnant for the second time. It involves a three- year program. The potential of the heifer as future herd cow, is established here. WHERE DOES SELECTION START? Selection starts during the breeding season of the mothers. Give preference to heifers born early in the breeding sea- son: Not only do they wean at a heavier weight, but there is also a high correlation between cows which calf early and at what stage during the season their daugh- ters will calf. Ideally 60% of cows should calf within the first three weeks of the calving season and preference should be given to the heifers. After weaning the selection criteria such as weaning weight (at least 10% heavier than the average weaning weight of the heifers in the group), correct build, good femininity and sexual development must be taken into account. This can be seen as the first round of selection and for this reason it is recommended that producers should make provision at this stage for the number of heifers to be selected, since some of the heifers may fall out in the second round. The second round of selection is when weaning takes place, after replacement heifers have calved for the first time (tak- ing into account that they must be exam- ined rectally by a veterinary surgeon to ensure that they reflect satisfactory sexual development). Aspects such as recon- ception percentage (did she conceive within the first 42 days of the mating sea- son), weaning mass (did she wean 45% of her own mass) and growth rate (did her own mass increase after she calved) must be taken into account - all these aspects are indicators of her ability to adjust.