Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



The Professional Animal Scientist 21 (2005):164–173


Sustainable cowherds require replacement of cull cows either internally via raised heifers or externally with purchased females. Managing raised replacements begins with a weaned heifer calf and continues on through her second pregnancy and calving. Replacement costs were estimated from research conducted in Nebraska for spring-calving cowherds and included the opportunity cost of the heifer calf. The analysis, based on research data, showed that heifer development programs targeted to 50 to 55% of mature BW (MBW) at first breeding can be successful, challenging the traditional target of 65% of MBW at first breeding. The lower BW programs achieved first-calf pregnancy rates near 90% of heifers exposed and resulted in development costs that were $25 to $30 per head lower than the higher BW programs. Finishing or selling open first-calf heifers was shown to be an economically viable enterprise given development costs were not too large. Numbers of open first-calf heifers were shown not to greatly affect total development costs. The primiparous heifer can increase the overall heifer development costs if not managed properly. Research showed that strategic nutritional programs for primiparous heifers resulted in successful reproduction without large increases in costs (