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Producers reminded to take extra care of replacement heifers through winter months 

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On Dec. 5, University of Wisconsin Extension Livestock Educator Adam Hartfiel published an article in Farm Progress reminding producers to pay extra attention to the nutritional and environmental needs of their replacement heifers throughout coming winter months. 

“The goal for raising replacement heifers should be to raise them as efficiently and economically as possible, yet set them up for longevity and long-term success,” Hartfiel states.

Nutritional needs

In order to achieve proper body condition and the targeted weight for replacement heifers at breeding age, Hartfiel notes it is essential to meet heifers’ nutritional needs. 

“Replacement heifers are generally expected to be 60 to 65 percent of their mature body weight and reach puberty by breeding time,” he says. 

According to South Dakota State University Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist Taylor Grussing in an Oct. 25, 2021 article titled “Targeted feeding for heifer development,” heifers should be 85 to 90 percent of mature body weight by calving. 

To determine average daily gain needed to reach these target weights, Grussing explains producers can subtract current weight from target weight and then divide by the number of animals they expect to feed. 

Grussing recommends producers feed their replacement heifers a ration of at least 11 percent protein; 36 to 42 megacalories of net energy for gain; a two-to-one calcium phosphorus ratio; trace minerals with amino acid complexes including a minimum of 30 parts per million (ppm) zinc, 10 ppm copper and 20 ppm manganese; a vitamin package with at least 19,000 international units of vitamin A and 0.15 percent salt. 

Additionally, Hartfiel and Grussing both recommend heifers be fed separate from the rest of the cow herd since they are often at the bottom of the pecking order and need more attention. 

“Some operations overwinter newly weaned calves, bred heifers, first-calf heifers and older cows together in one group,” says Hartfiel. “Splitting the herd into groups of similar age, size and stage of development will allow for more efficient and economical allocation of feed and make sure each group’s nutritional needs are being met.” 

Environmental needs

Additionally, Hartfiel shares it is equally important for producers to ensure the environmental needs of replacement heifers are being met. 

For heifers kept in confinement, it is important to keep pens clean, provide dry bedding and offer protection from the wind. Hartfiel explains providing heifers with a clean, dry place to stay will reduce their nutritional requirements to stay warm. 

“In addition, in pens and areas where cattle are housed, keeping manure and mud depth below ankle deep reduces unnecessary energy spent just to move around,” he states. “A good example is the amount of energy needed to walk around wearing heavy winter boots, compared to when we take them off in the spring.” 

“Overall, winter can be a challenging time for cow/calf producers. Weather, forage quality and mature cow competition are just a few obstacles producers may run into while developing their next set of cows for the operation,” he adds. 

Hartfiel concludes, “However, maintaining good body condition, feeding quality forages and paying keen attention to animal husbandry can help make this process successful time after time.” 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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