Heifer Development on Rangeland
Heifer development is one of the three largest expenses for beef cattle operations when the opportunity cost for retaining heifers is factored in. One can purchase replacement heifers of breeding size or develop their own heifers in the feedlot, farm dry-lot, irrigated pasture, or on range. In some areas of the country, companies which develop ranchers’ heifers for a fee are available as well. The option one chooses depends upon the timetable desired for heifer replacements and the economics of each option for a particular operation. When the cost of a replacement program and the reduction in herd size for yearling heifers is considered, sometimes it may be more cost effective if quality replacement heifers can be purchased at a reasonable price. Unless hampered by a lack of good quality, inexpensive feed and available rangeland, there may be a cost advantage (per head basis) in developing heifers from the herd instead of purchasing them. However, each replacement heifer being developed on the range will replace approximately 60% of a mature cow, lowering stocking rate during the grazing season. Because of a lack of capital and concerns related to herd bio-security and genetic progress, most producers choose to raise replacement heifers. There is an advantage in knowing the performance of selected females and their dams, thus providing the ability to more closely match replacement females to the particular environment. Computer programs or worksheets.
Revised 12/2011. Originally published: 2000.AZ1165-2011