Heifers + Housing = 24 Month Calving

Dale Thoreson, dairy field specialist

Situation
The average age of calving for Iowa dairy herds is 26-27 months of age. Numerous research studies show that heifers are metabolically able to be calved out at 22 to 24 months. First lactation heifers normally peak at 70 to 90 pounds of milk per day. Extension has identified a lack of adequate housing for heifers three to 20 months of age as one factor slowing rate of growth and delaying calving. Calving heifers (large breeds) at 24 months and weighing 1,350 pounds just prior to calving can increase income over variable costs by $3,600* for each 100 cows annually.

Response
A series of farm calls and educational publications resulted in three heifer or dry cows facilities being built in Allamakee County in 2003. Each producer agreed to host a field day and respond to questions from participants. Design style, animal criteria and costs were freely discussed. A single page, illustrated handout gave details of the heifer facilities.

Impact
On April 4th over 100 dairy producers and agri-businesses came to see the three housing styles. Hosting dairy farmers described their barns, pointed out positive and negative aspects, and responded to questions for over an hour. One host stated, "I've had to move breeding dates up to 12-13 months because the heifers are growing so fast. This is four months sooner then his old system.": Another stated, "You just don't loose a heifer with these open fronted mono-sloped heifer buildings." No formal survey of participants has been done, but requests for heifer facility designs have increased.* See Field Specialist for specifics

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu