Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

An empirical analysis of the cost of rearing dairy heifers from birth to first calving and the time taken to repay these costs

  • A. C. Boulton (a1), J. Rushton (a1) and D. C. Wathes (a1)

Abstract

Rearing quality dairy heifers is essential to maintain herds by replacing culled cows. Information on the key factors influencing the cost of rearing under different management systems is, however, limited and many farmers are unaware of their true costs. This study determined the cost of rearing heifers from birth to first calving in Great Britain including the cost of mortality, investigated the main factors influencing these costs across differing farming systems and estimated how long it took heifers to repay the cost of rearing on individual farms. Primary data on heifer management from birth to calving was collected through a survey of 101 dairy farms during 2013. Univariate followed by multivariable linear regression was used to analyse the influence of farm factors and key rearing events on costs. An Excel spreadsheet model was developed to determine the time it took for heifers to repay the rearing cost. The mean±SD ages at weaning, conception and calving were 62±13, 509±60 and 784±60 days. The mean total cost of rearing was £1819±387/heifer with a mean daily cost of £2.31±0.41. This included the opportunity cost of the heifer and the mean cost of mortality, which ranged from £103.49 to £146.19/surviving heifer. The multivariable model predicted an increase in mean cost of rearing of £2.87 for each extra day of age at first calving and a decrease in mean cost of £6.06 for each percentile increase in time spent at grass. The model also predicted a decrease in the mean cost of rearing in autumn and spring calving herds of £273.20 and £288.56, respectively, compared with that in all-year-round calving herds. Farms with herd sizes⩾100 had lower mean costs of between £301.75 and £407.83 compared with farms with <100 milking cows. The mean gross margin per heifer was £441.66±304.56 (range £367.63 to £1120.08), with 11 farms experiencing negative gross margins. Most farms repaid the cost of heifer rearing in the first two lactations (range 1 to 6 lactations) with a mean time from first calving until breaking even of 530±293 days. The results of the economic analysis suggest that management decisions on key reproduction events and grazing policy significantly influence the cost of rearing and the time it takes for heifers to start making a profit for the farm.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      An empirical analysis of the cost of rearing dairy heifers from birth to first calving and the time taken to repay these costs
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      An empirical analysis of the cost of rearing dairy heifers from birth to first calving and the time taken to repay these costs
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      An empirical analysis of the cost of rearing dairy heifers from birth to first calving and the time taken to repay these costs
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

E-mail: dcwathes@rvc.ac.uk

Footnotes

Hide All
a

Present address: Institute of Veterinary, Animal & Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.

b

Present address: Institute of Infection and Global Health, The Ronald Ross Building, 8 West Derby Street, Liverpool L69 7BE, UK.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Agro Business Consultants 2013. The agricultural budgeting & costing book, 76th edition. Agro Business Consultants Ltd, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, UK.
Bach, A 2011. Associations between several aspects of heifer development and dairy cow survivability to second lactation. Journal of Dairy Science 94, 10521057.
Bach, A and Ahedo, J 2008. Record keeping and economics of dairy heifers. Veterinary Clinics of North America Food Animal Practice 24, 117138.
Boulton, AC, Rushton, J and Wathes, DC 2015a. A study of dairy heifer rearing practices from birth to weaning and their associated costs on UK dairy farms. Open Journal of Animal Sciences 5, 185197.
Boulton, AC, Rushton, J and Wathes, DC 2015b. The management and associated costs of rearing heifers on UK dairy farms from weaning to conception. Open Journal of Animal Sciences 5, 474485.
Boulton, AC, Rushton, J and Wathes, DC 2015c. Analysis of the management and costs associated with rearing pregnant diary heifers in the UK from conception to calving. Open Journal of Animal Sciences 5, 185197.
Brickell, JS, McGowan, MM, Pfeiffer, DU and Wathes, DC 2009. Mortality in Holstein-Friesian calves and replacement heifers in relation to body weight and IGF-I concentration, on 19 farms in England. Animal 3, 11751182.
Brickell, JS and Wathes, DC 2011. A descriptive study of the survival of Holstein-Friesian heifers through to third calving on English dairy farms. Journal of Dairy Science 94, 18311838.
Cook, J 2009. Understanding conception rates in dairy herds. In Practice 31, 262266.
Cooke, JS, Cheng, Z, Bourne, NE and Wathes, DC 2013. Association between growth rates, age at first calving and subsequent fertility, milk production and survival in Holstein-Friesian heifers. Open Journal of Animal Sciences 3, 112.
Dohoo, I, Martin, W and Stryhn, H 2009. Linear regression. In Veterinary epidemiologic research, 2nd edition (ed. I Dohoo, W Martin and H Stryhn), pp. 323364. VER Inc., Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Ettema, JF and Santos., JE 2004. Impact of age at first calving on lactation, reproduction, health and income in first-parity Holsteins on commercial farms. Journal of Dairy Science 87, 27302742.
Gabler, MT, Tozer, PR and Heinrichs, AJ 2000. Development of a cost analysis spreadsheet for calculating the costs to raise a replacement dairy heifer. Journal of Dairy Science 83, 11041109.
Hanks, J and Kossaibati, M 2012. Key performance indicators for the UK national dairy herd. In A Study of Herd Performance in 500 Holstein/Friesian Herds for the Year Ending 31st August 2012, University of Reading, Reading, UK, pp. 1–26.
Heinrichs, AJ, Jones, CM, Gray, SM, Heinrichs, PA, Cornelisse, SA and Goodling, RC 2013. Identifying efficient dairy heifer producers using production costs and data envelopment analysis. Journal of Dairy Science 96, 18.
Jousan, FD, Drost, M and Hansen, PJ 2005. Factors associated with early and mid-to-late fetal loss in lactating and non-lactating Holstein cattle in a hot climate. Journal of Animal Science 83, 10171022.
Keatley, P 2016. Department of agriculture and rural development, policy and economics division, farm business data. Retrieved on 30 June 2016 from https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/dard/farm-business-data-2016-final.pdf
Kingshay 2013. Feeding replacement heifers. In Farming Notes, Kingshay, West Bradley, Somerset, UK, pp. 1–50.
Mohd Nor, N, Steeneveld, W, Derkman, THJ, Verbruggen, MD, Evers, AG, de Haan, MHA and Hogeveen, H 2015. The total cost of rearing a heifer on Dutch dairy farms: calculated versus perceived cost. Irish Veterinary Journal 68, 29.
Mohd Nor, N, Steeneveld, W, Mourits, MCM and Hogeveen, H 2012. Estimating the costs of rearing young dairy cattle in the Netherlands using a simulation model that accounts for uncertainty related to diseases. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 106, 214224.
Mourits, MCM, Huirne, RBM, Dijkhuizen, AA and Galligan, DT 1999. Optimal heifer management decisions and the influence of price and production variables. Livestock Production Science 60, 4558.
Promar International 2011. What are heifer replacements really costing you? Retrieved on 16 October 2013 from http://www.milkminder.co.uk/news/Heifer%20costs.PDF
Tozer, PR 2000. Least-cost ration formulations for Holstein dairy heifers by using linear and stochastic programming. Journal of Dairy Science 83, 443451.
Tozer, PR and Heinrichs, AJ 2001. What affects the costs of raising replacement dairy heifers: a multiple-component analysis. Journal of Dairy Science 84, 18361844.
Vasseur, E, Rushen, J, de Passillé, AM, Lefebvre, D and Pellerin, D 2010. A Canadian intervention strategy to encourage changes in calves and heifers management to improve welfare in dairy farms. Journal of Dairy Science 93, 44144426.
Waltner-Toews, D, Martin, SW and Meek, AH 1986. The effect of early calfhood health status on survivorship and age at first calving. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 50, 314317.
Wathes, DC, Pollott, GE, Johnson, KF, Richardson, H and Cooke, JS 2014. Heifer fertility and carry over consequences for life time production in dairy and beef cattle. Animal 8 (suppl. 1), 91104.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

animal
  • ISSN: 1751-7311
  • EISSN: 1751-732X
  • URL: /core/journals/animal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed