Page 106

Working Ranch April/May 2016

She has eye appeal, ideal frame size, a docile nature and quality genetics behind her. But will that heifer you plan to retain be fertile, raise a calf every year and stay in your herd at least 8 years? No cut-and-dried formula will answer that question. However, research completed by South Dakota State University Beef Reproduction Extension Specialist Dr. George Perry and Animal Research Physiologist at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (Clay Center, NE) Robert Cushman, is giving beef producers improved heifer selection guidelines. Incorporating their research fi ndings into the heifer selection process could result in a “yes” answer to all these important questions. “Because many beef herds are so small right now, selecting high quality, fertile heifers will increase the level of those qualities in your entire herd in upcoming years,” Perry says. “Heifer selection is somewhat subjective, depending on individual producer goals. However, there are some common heifer traits that highly infl uence fertility, longevity and profi tability.” Among Perry and Cushman’s research fi ndings is evidence that producers are not likely to recoup the revenue lost when a heifer fails to produce a calf. With smaller livestock profi t margins looming on the horizon, successful heifer selection is likely to be more important than ever. PRODUCER’S ROADMAP Perry recommends starting the heifer selection process by identifying long term beef production goals. Without a thorough understanding of production goals and resources, producers aren’t able to zero in on the most important genetic traits for their herd and are likely to struggle with the overall quality of herd genetics. “Heifer selection criteria can’t change every year because there won’t be any genetic consistency in the herd,” Perry continues. “Determining if you’re selling on pounds weaned, carcass traits or other key traits helps refi ne selection criteria.” Verifying the age of the heifer is another top priority at the beginning of the heifer selection process. “Producers tell me they purchase replacement heifers in many different ways, from buying what’s available at the sale barn to thoroughly researching dam performance,” Perry says. “Selecting heifers based solely on size can be problematic. Both early and late born calves may be either exceptionally large or small for their age. Unless you know the heifer’s age, you can’t be certain what traits their current size refl ects.” BY LORETTA SORENSEN PHOTOS BY SABRINA REED A little detective work can pay off when you’re developing the breeding females 106 I WORKING RANCH I APRIL / MAY 2016


Working Ranch April/May 2016
To see the actual publication please follow the link above