Raising versus Purchasing Replacement Heifers

News Column
By: Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent–Ag/NR
Smith County

 Raising versus Purchasing Replacem

As we begin rebuilding the cow herd following the 2011 drought, some producers are raising replacement heifers while others chose to purchase replacement heifers.  Whether to raise replacement heifers or purchase replacement heifers goes back to the individual manager and the goals of the operation.  There is no one answer that fits all producers.  It will vary and depend on your management and individual situation.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages when deciding on raising or purchasing replacement females?  Producers should look at the current and future market prices.  How many cattle do you plan to own?  What pasture, facilities and management skills do you have?  Producers should examine available labor, economics, herd health concerns, cattle genetic base, herd quality, and purchase replacement alternatives.

The beef industry cycles with the law of supply and demand driving this cycle.  The size of the operation may determine whether you raise or purchase replacement heifers.  For small operations, the amount of forage, land, and the number of heifers raised each year may factor into this decision.  How many heifers can you expect on a yearly basis?  Where will you put a group of replacement heifers if land and forage is limited?  It may be cheaper in the long run to purchase your replacement heifers from larger breeders that have resources to grow these cattle to breeding age.  Young growing heifers have a higher level of management requirements and should be separated from the cow herd to develop.  Each manager will need to determine what fits the needs of the operation.

Purchasing replacement heifers allows for some genetic diversity in the cow herd.  Are you planning to purchase straight bred or cross bred heifers?  Cattle can be selected for maternal traits, performance traits, and carcass traits.   In cross breeding, offspring are more vigorous and fast-growing called heterosis.  Research has shown that heterosis can increase production per cow by 20 to 25 percent in Bos taurus X Bos taurus crosses (Angus X Hereford).  Heterosis can increase production per cow by 40 to 50 percent in Bos indicus X Bos taurus crosses (Brahman X Hereford).

Raising your replacement heifers may allow you to select the older, heavier calves that were born early in the growing season.  These heifers are more likely to reach the proper weight needed for the onset of puberty.  These older heifers often come from highly fertile females that conceived early in the breeding season.

Producers should look at selecting cattle that are genetically adapted to the local environment.  The cow should match the environmental conditions in an area.  The bull should complement the cow to produce calves that fit the market you are working towards.  When purchasing heifers, producers may not know all the factors about the bull like is he a calving-ease bull or not.  Producers raising replacement heifers can select bulls for calving-ease and determine when they want these females to have their calves.

Again, the decision whether to purchase or raise replacement heifers lie with each individual operation and manager.  Both economics and general management are factors in this decision making process.  Always base your decision on the circumstances that fits your individual operation and marketing strategies.

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