Too many? Not enough? Costs and opportunities associated with dairy replacement heifer inventory
Keywords:replacement rate, dairy replacement heifers, opportunity cost
Replacement rate (RR), also commonly called cull rate or herd turnover, is the proportion of the adult herd that enters the herd every year, and in a steady-state herd, the number of animals exiting equals the number of animals that enter; thus, the RR is determined by replacement availability. Failing to produce an adequate number of replacements will lower replacement cost but negatively impact profitability by delaying the replacement of inferior producers. The appropriate number of heifers to produce varies by herd but is dependent upon the herd’s anticipated replacement needs plus any buffer allowance. Focusing on genetic composition and improvement of feeding and management strategies will yield higher quality heifers with higher predicted milk production that impact cow replacement decision making. A sufficient and steady flow of replacement heifers will enable dairies to replace problem cows or soon-to-be problem cows earlier, thus improving not only economic performance, but also animal welfare and market values..