Analysis of the Management and Costs Associated with Rearing Pregnant Dairy Heifers in the UK from Conception to Calving

Boulton, A C and Rushton, J and Wathes, D C (2015) Analysis of the Management and Costs Associated with Rearing Pregnant Dairy Heifers in the UK from Conception to Calving. Open Journal of Animal Sciences, 5 (4). pp. 474-485.

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Abstract

Good management of the pregnant heifer is crucial to ensure that she is well grown and healthy and calves down easily before joining the milking herd. This study collected primary data on all aspects of heifer management on 101 UK farms during heifer pregnancy from conception to calving including farm factors and associated costs of system inputs. A cost analysis workbook was developed to calculate the cost of rearing per heifer for each of the study farms. Associations between cost of rearing and farms factors were determined using linear regression and analysis of variance. Heifers had a mean age of conception of 509 d (range 365 - 700 d) and an age at first calving of 784 d (range 639 - 973 d). The mean total cost of rearing during pregnancy was £450.36 (range £153.11 to £784.00) with a mean daily cost of £1.64 (range £0.56 to £2.86). The inputs contributing the most to cost were feed (32.7%), labour (23.8%) and slurry disposal (11.2%). Total purchased and homegrown feed and grazing contributed between 25.5% and 65.4% of total costs with a mean contribution of 43.6%. The cost of rearing was lowest in spring calving herds and highest in all year round calving herds with intermediate values in autumn and multi block calving herds. The main variables influencing the cost were the number of days spent at grass, age at first calving, calving pattern, breed, herd size and region. Each extra day in age at first calving increased the mean cost of rearing during pregnancy by £0.33/d whereas every extra day at grass reduced the cost by £1.75/d.