Slaughtering free-breeding heifers early has several benefits to the bottom line of your cow-calf operation. Pregnancy can be diagnosed by palpation at 60 days and by ultrasound at 30 days, so now is the time to act and slaughter open heifers.
Besides reducing grazing pressure on drought-stressed pastures, there are several other long-term benefits. As a rule of thumb, we should expect well-developed yearling heifers at 65% of their adult weight to enter their first breeding season to conceive in a fairly short breeding season (45-60 days) .
The easiest time in a female beef breeder’s life to breed should be a well-developed yearling heifer. Therefore, slaughtering open heifers as soon as possible leads to:
- Improve the long-term reproductive performance of your cow herd. Breeding traits have low heritability; however, culling open heifers will improve the genetic potential of your cow herd’s reproductive performance by eliminating sub-fertile heifers. From a business perspective, reproductive success (percentage of calves weaned) is of critical economic importance in the cow-calf sector.
- At present, the slaughter of open yearling heifers still gives them the potential to be marketed as yearling heifers. At this age, they still have the potential to finish in maturity group A and harvest as feeder cattle reaching the most valuable quality grades (Choice and Prime).
It’s a best management practice to raise heifers to calve a little before our herd of mature cows. This allows us to focus our management efforts during the heifer calving season and, just as importantly, gives them a little extra time to breed and calve on time the following year. With that in mind, hold your replacement heifers accountable and cull open as soon as possible to save on feed bills, capture their maximum value and improve the fertility of your cow herd.
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