Buyers of VA Premium Assured Heifers Generally Pleased
Livestock Update, April 2002
John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, VA Tech
The results from a recent buyers survey indicate that VA Premium Assured Heifers are the premium quality product that the program was designed to produce. The survey also indicates there is some room to improve consistency of heifers. Further education of both buyers and breeders may improve results with VA Premium Assured Heifers.
A survey of all producers that purchased VA Premium Assured Heifers from late 1999 to early 2001 was conducted in fall of 2001. Twenty-eight farms that purchased at total of 281 bred heifers responded, and results are summarized in Table 1. Two hundred and fifty-seven heifers had calved by the time of the survey and reproductive performance was based on these heifers that had calved.
Table 1. Results from VA Premium Assured Heifer Buyer's Survey
|Area of Evaluation||Result|
|Total heifers in survey||281|
|Av. number of heifers purchased||10|
|Total farms responding||28|
|Number of heifers that calved by time of the survey||257|
|Number of heifers with calving difficulty||30|
|Percent of Heifers Experiencing Calving difficulty||11.67 %|
|Range of % calving difficulty||0-100%|
|Level of Calving difficulty (1=no assistance to 4=hard pull)||2.26|
|% Heifer Deaths||0.39 %|
|% calf Deaths||2.33 %|
|Heifer Rating (1 = best to 5= Worst)||2.63|
|Calf rating (1 = best to 5= Worst)||2.31|
(1=Very Satisfied to 5 Very Unsatisfied)
|Likely to Purchase again|
(1 = Definitely, 5=Never)
Reproductive performance excellent
Only 11.7 % of heifers experienced calving difficulty. This is considerably lower than the calving difficulty rate of 18% reported in the Cow/Calf Health & Productivity Audit (National Animal Health Monitoring System, 1998) or the 20 to 25 % estimated by various research studies. This indicates that the VA Premium Assured Heifer Program requirements for service sire birth weight EPD and pelvic areas are effective in reducing calving problems.
The range of calving difficulty was from 0 % for several farms to 100% for 1 farm. The median number of heifers needing assistance was 7.2 % indicating that many farms had little or no calving difficulty. The farm that had to assist 100 % of the calving had purchased 4 heifers. The large range with low median indicates that either more intensive screening of a few heifers or service sires needs to take place or buyers may need more information on calving heifers. Both are most likely needed.
As a result of reduced calving problems, deaths of heifers or calves shortly after birth were low. Only 1 heifer and 6 calves died out of the 257 births. This also indicates that most buyers are doing a good job of checking heifers during calving.
Heifer and calf performance good
Buyers indicated that calf performance was above average for calves from replacement heifers. As expected, there was a range in satisfaction level with calves. However, they rated heifers as average. These results demonstrate that genetic requirements for better growth and milk were evident in higher calf quality. Lower ratings for heifers may be related to fleshing ability or variability in heifer type.
Not everything is perfect
Not every buyer was totally satisfied, but this represented only a few of the farms in the survey. In several instances, buyers had purchased both VA Premium Assured and non-premium assured heifers. Both survey information and follow-up contacts by extension and VDACS personnel indicated that problems occurred more often with non-premium assured heifers than VA Premium Assured Heifers. Often producers were confused about which type of heifer they had purchased. VA Premium Assured Heifers will now be offered only in exclusive VAPAH sales. The VAPAH program has tried to assist the few buyers that had a problem with VA Premium Assured Heifers to come to an agreeable solution with the sellers of those heifers.
Buyers liked the heifers
Overall, buyers were satisfied with their purchase of VA Premium Assured Heifers. On the average, buyers were likely to purchase VA Premium Assured Heifers again. The results from the survey indicate that the VAPAH Program is successful in reducing problems with replacement heifers as well as providing heifers and calves with superior genetics. Certainly, calving heifers will never be totally problem free, but VA Premium Assured bred heifers minimize those problems.