Making the Most of Dairy Heifer Inventories

The stakes are high when it comes to making dairy cattle breeding decisions. From rising input costs to a lucrative market for beef-on-dairy calves, each female requires careful consideration about her future in the herd. Dan Weigel of Zoetis reminds producers how genomic data can make an impact for dairies of all types and sizes…tape

“Genomics are absolutely scale-free. Just raising heifers, the cost is high for everybody right now. And if you’re having to raise heifers, extra heifers, that means you’re selling fewer of these beef calves. You want to maximize your profitability per cow.”

When getting with either the Clarifide, or Clarified-Plus genomic tests from Zoetis, Weigel recommends focusing on pre-breeding heifers. Look back at performance records to analyze conception and pregnancy rates for both the current and previous generations. He asks the question: how many heifers do we want to make each year?

“Heifers are actually selling for very good money right now. So rather than continue to put the expensive feed into them, we can cash those heifers in and really push people to use the information. Are you going to use sexed semen? Are you going to make some beef-cross calves? Because that really maximizes information if we can work with you on those things.”

Genomic data reveal important insights into where a female might best fit within the herd. But it’s not just about immediate results.

“I really challenge producers to not think about where they’re at today, but what if they focus their efforts on their best animals? Would they perform better? And could this all be feasible using more sexed semen on their better animals? And again, most cases we find the answer is yes, this Holstein cow and heifer are much, much more fertile than they used to be, and we can get this done.”

Results from Clarified-Plus are calculated into the Dairy Wellness Profit Index — multi-trait selection that includes cow and calf wellness, production, fertility, functional type, longevity, livability, calving ability, and milk quality traits.

“Continuous improvement is our mantra. So, we’re continuing to tweak that index and probably make it more personalized as we go forward for specific dairies.”

Visit to learn more about genomic testing from Zoetis.