The Florida Heifer Development Program
Annually beef cattle producers are faced with the decision of how to replace unproductive females within their herd. For most large commercial ranches, developing their own replacement heifers is a viable option, but for many smaller operations (<100 head) it is not as easy. Whether it is that lack of labor, experience, facilities, or equipment, it can be hard to justify the cost of developing replacement heifers separate from the mature cow herd.
In an effort to meet this need in the Southeast, County Agents along with State Specialists at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna, are collaborating to offer the Florida Heifer Development Program. This program is designed to receive weaned heifers at the NFREC in the fall, where the Beef Unit staff will develop them and expose them to artificial insemination, followed up with natural service bull breeding, with the ultimate goal of sending pregnant heifers back to the producer in the spring.
The mission of the program is to serve as a resource for cow/calf producers in the Southeastern US, to provide opportunities in education, and the facilitation of replacement heifer development for enhancement of sustainable beef cattle operations.
The program was designed to meet the following objectives:
- To successfully develop beef replacement heifers for cattle producers using research-based data on nutritional and reproductive management to enhance lifetime productivity of heifers in the beef herd.
- To provide an educational resource that exposes beef cattle producers to improved animal management techniques associated with development of replacement beef heifers and educational opportunities that focus on herd health, nutritional management, and artificial insemination.
The heifers will be housed at the NFREC in Marianna during the 187 day development process (October 1, 2016 to April 6, 2017), during which they will be fed to target gains of 1.50 to 2.25 pounds per day. Heifers will be exposed to two rounds of artificial insemination to either an Angus bull selected by the program leaders, or to semen provided by the consignor, and then cleaned up with calving ease Angus bulls for the remainder of the 68 day breeding season. Heifers will be bred to target a starting calving date of September 25, 2017. Heifers born between August 15, 2015 and November 30, 2015 , with a 1.75 pounds weight per day of age at time of delivery are eligible for nomination. Heifers must be weaned 30 prior to their October 1st delivery, and meet all health and vaccine requirements outlined in the rules and regulations. The cost of the program will be between $550 and $650, with the variation being accounted for by the total feed cost.
Nomination of heifers is currently open, with a deadline of August 1, 2016. There is a $50.00/head non-refundable fee to nominate heifers. Consignors must also be members of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. A total of 100 head of heifers will be accepted this first year of the program. Each consignor can nominate up to 10 head per operation. Heifers will be accepted based on the order in which nomination forms are received. If the100 head program target is not reached, additional consignments, more than 10 heifers, will be accepted on the basis of available space, in the order in which the nomination forms were received.
For more information:
Dr. Cliff Lamb