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The Cow-Calf Manager

Livestock Update, August 2003

John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Virginia Tech

Producing Replacement Heifers May Offer Good Opportunity This Year

After several years of drought and beef herd reduction, the East and most of the Midwest are recovering. High calf prices and low feed costs may encourage producers in these areas to expand while the West remains dry. Producers with quality commercial cow herds may have an opportunity to sell replacement heifers at a profit in the next few years. Alternatively, producers may want to expand their own herds.

Producers wanting to expand their herds in Virginia may find this is an opportune time for expansion as herd increase in the far western states is stymied by drought. Additionally, producers that want to make a change or improvement in their herds may find that profits from high calf prices this fall may help finance the purchase of replacement heifers.

Before deciding to sell replacement heifers, producers need to ask some critical questions. Are my heifers really good enough to improve someoneıs herd or will they be just a pregnant heifer? Do I have the ability, facilities and cash flow to properly raise and manage replacement heifers? Am I willing to use artificial insemination or invest in a top quality calving ease bull with EPDıs for growth as well? What is my marketing plan for these replacement heifers? What is my marketing plan for heifers that "donıt make grade?"

Most of these questions producers need to answer for themselves. Getting the opinion of your county Extension Agent or a producer who is already selling quality replacement heifers is a good idea when evaluating the potential of your heifers to improve other herds and sell at a premium. Producers must be willing to accept that not all heifers will make good replacement heifers.

Virginia Cooperative Extension in conjunction with producers, veterinarians and the VA Cattlemenıs Association developed the VA Premium Assured Heifer program as a method for developing as well as marketing replacement heifers. Over 500 heifers per year have been marketed through this program with potential for several hundred more. In addition, several programs with requirements similar to VA Premium Assured Heifers also are marketing heifers. Producers retain several hundred heifers each year to return to their home herds as well.

At least four VA Premium Assured HeiferTM sales will be held this fall. These sales are not only opportunities for producers that want to sell heifers, but opportunities for producers wanting to improve their herds by purchasing top quality heifers. For more information contact your local extension office or .

The Virginia Premium Assured HeiferTM System

The process for developing heifers using VA Premium Assured methods is not difficult, but it is easier if the process is carried out in stages. The process is the same for fall calving or spring calving heifers. The critical stages and processes are as follows:

Weaning (6-10 months of age)

Prebreeding (13 ­ 14 months of age)

  • Re-evaluate structure, frame, muscling and growth
  • Weigh and body condition score heifers
  • Treat for internal (spring and fall) and external parasites (fall)
  • Repeat vaccinations for 5-way Lepto (required). Vaccination for vibrio is encouraged. Also IBR-PI3, BVD, BRSV and 7-way clostridial if needed.
  • Reproductive exam ­ reproductive tract score and pelvic area measurements
  • Make sure service sire meets VAPAH requirements. Use of estrus synchronization and AI are encouraged.
  • Have local VAPAH committee evaluate heifers ( required for open sale heifers only)
  • Plan nutrition program to have heifers at 90% of mature weight by calving. Heifers need to gain 1.5 to 1.75 lbs. per day. See your county agent or nutritionist for assistance.
  • Submit Pre-breeding Examination Form (include all heifers examined)

    Pregnancy Exam (16 to 18 months of age)

  • Weigh and body condition score heifers
  • Pregnancy check heifers
  • Booster 5-way Lepto
  • Have local VAPAH committee evaluate heifers ( required for pregnant sale heifers only; recommended for new VAPAH producers keeping heifers at home )
  • Submit Pregnancy Examination Form (report all heifers including open and late bred heifers)

    Special Requirements for VAPAH Sale Heifers

  • Negative Anaplasmosis test within 90 days of sale
  • Treated with Endectacide within 60 days of fall sales and within 30 days of spring sales
  • No defects ­ bad eyes, frozen ears, horns, rat-tails or bob tails
  • No lame animals

    Service Sire - Minimum EPDıs

    Birth Weight EPD *

    *See current years VA Premium Assured Heifer Requirement for chart of specific EPDs by breed.

    Growth EPDs*

    *See current years VA Premium Assured Heifer Requirement for chart of specific EPDs by breed.

    Premium Assured Plus level

    VA Premium Assured Plus is another level of the program above the Premium Assured level. At this level, the heifers were sired by bulls meeting specific EPD requirements for growth (VA PAH requirements) and milk (top 70% of breed).

    Additional details and information about the VAPAH program can be obtained from:
    John B. Hall, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, VA Tech
    Phone: 540-231-9153 or

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