There are three basic heifer rearing options: keeping stock on the dairy farm or runoff, contract grazing, or purchasing grown replacements. If you’re considering grazing your heifers on the milking platform against contract grazing off-farm, use the grazing calculator to estimate the financial impact of keeping heifers on the milking platform and decreasing the number of milking cows.
Stock on dairy farm or at a runoff
- How will the change in milk production effect capacity adjustment?
- How much will stock sales change? This may be higher in the first season but lower in following seasons.
- Will lower cow costs, grazing costs and/or stock cartage offset the lower milk income?
- Does the dairy farm have the facilities necessary for drenching, weighing and vaccinating young stock?
- Will the dairy farm’s fencing be able to contain calves?
- How will keeping heifers on farm effect seasonal feed budgeting? Young stock feed demand is constantly increasing to reach liveweight targets compared to dairy cows which peaks in the spring and then flattens off and declines through the autumn.
- How will the labour requirements change by carrying multiple stock classes on farm? g. Milking another row of cows might add 10 minutes to every milking where drenching and vaccinating heifers requires different stock handling skills and is another job on farm.
- Do milking cows get their minerals, rumensin, bloat oil, zinc through stock water? Is this suitable for young stock?
If you currently work with a good grazier, how easy will it be to find someone that has a similar standard in the future if you decide to go back? Finding a grazier that can take your stock numbers and is good to work with is not always easy to find.
Benefits and challenges of keeping stock on dairy farm or at a runoff
- High level of personal control.
- Managing multiple stock classes.
- Time consuming.
- May be consuming feed that would otherwise be available to dairy cows.
Things to consider when sending heifers to contract grazing
- How likely is the grazier to reach heifer liveweight targets compared to keeping heifers on the dairy farm?
- Is the grazier’s land class suitable for heifers?
- How accessible will the heifers be if you want to see them?
- What is the level of service that is provided? E.g. Animal health, weighing, reporting.
If wider system changes will occur due to retaining heifers on farm, then more in depth analysis is required. Contact a qualified farm consultant or use Farmax modelling.
Benefits and challenges of contract growing
Contract growing stock to a grazier with a self-managed relationship to deliver stock performance.
- Someone else responsible for feeding and managing stock.
- Direct contact with stock manager.
- Personal responsibility.
- Time to complete checking on stock.
Contract growing stock to a grazier through a grazing company that mediates the relationship and manages stock performance
- Paying a specialist to manage the relationship between stock owner and the grazier to meet heifer targets.
- Grazing companies can have wider networks to source grazing from.
- Should supply regular weighing as part of the service.
- Variable results from grazing companies.
- Most grazing companies still get paid even if stock do not end up well grown.
- Payment system can be less straightforward.
- Some stock owners have found that they have less access to viewing their stock if working through a third party.
Contract growing stock to a grazier with a self-managed relationship and a third party monitoring stock performance
- Stock are managed by a grazier but regularly weighed by an objective third party.
- Stock owner has direct access to stock manager.
- Responsibility still lies with the stock owner to make sure action is taken and targets are achieved.
Purchase in grown replacements prior to calving
- Simple, no stock to manage, can purchase animals that meet buyer needs.
- Exposure to market, biosecurity, time to source animals, ability to find genetic types desire