Girl Scout Camp for Heifers

May 10, 2013

in Articles

Here is how we manage heifer calves in our operation:

We designate a pasture or pen as Girl Scout Camp. Girl Scout Camp is only for young heifers; no young bulls to make “teenage pregnancies,” and no adult cows to bully the Girl Scouts.  All the heifers go into Girl Scout Camp at weaning (6 months) and stay there until 14 months of age. If they are small for their age, they stay in Girl Scout Camp a few extra months. Girl Scouts get the best hay we can find in the winter, the best pasture we have in the summer, always have a protein tub, and typically get grain at least a few times a week, preferably every day. We keep a grain feeder there and pour in a mixture of horse pellets and Calf Manna, figuring between 1/4 to 1/2 of a 1.5 gallon bucket per Girl Scout.

If a heifer is not getting tame, one of us will lure her to the bucket and hold the bucket while she eats. After a couple feedings we start to pet her face while she eats, etc.  If we want to halter break, we put a halter on them and tie them for each grain feeding, so they associate being tied with their favorite time of the day.

The separation makes sure the herd bull does not breed them too young. The grain helps socialize them and get them to grow at a steady rate that first year. This system virtually eliminates calving problems and other health issues with their first calf, when they are statistically the most likely to have a problem.

Disclaimers: This system has worked well, for us, for over 20 years.  1) Our heifers are getting the best feed we can find.  They have achieved a high percentage of their adult size at time of breeding.  If you don’t feed them well, they will be much smaller at the same age. They will also produce poorer quality colostrum when they freshen.  2) We have heard of heifers being bred by the herd bull at less than 6 months of age.  We had this experience once, 15 years ago, out of a daughter of a foreign A.I. bull.  Since then, we do not see any evidence of such precocious puberty in our herd. 2) Our animals are not very large boned, and our herd is very uniform.  If you have large boned, heavy shouldered cattle, your heifers will need to be older than ours at the time you expose them to the bull, to avoid calving problems.


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