Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2001


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVII December 11, 12, and 13, 2001 - Casper, Wyoming.


What is the value of a heifer calf, a bred heifer, or a re-bred 2nd calf cow? How does that value compare to the current market price? What is your cost of raising a heifer calf, bred heifer, or re-bred 2nd calf cow? How many pencils have been worn dull or how many spreadsheets have been created to answer these questions? The unrealistic objective of this paper is to answer these questions. Perhaps a more realistic objective is to answer some of these questions and to provide you the framework to answer some of the questions for your own operation.

One approach to determine value is to simply consider the market price for the heifer. However, this is only the true value if you actually sell the heifer. If you keep the heifer, then her true value is based on her future production, your annual costs to keep her, and the future market prices for calves and for a cull cow when the heifer is ultimately sold. When one considers these factors and how variable they are from year-to-year, from ranch-to-ranch and from heifer-to-heifer there is no single value that will be correct. However, there are some correct principles to determine these values for individual operations.

Replacement heifer management from weaning of the heifer calf, to breeding, to calving and to re-breeding can greatly impact the future productivity of a heifer and therefore impact the value of the heifer. There may also be significant differences in costs associated with alternative heifer management programs. Four alternative heifer management programs will be briefly considered, primarily to illustrate a method of determining costs. A method of determining expected value will also be presented. The last section of the paper will present a historical comparison of the cost, value, and market price of a replacement heifer.