Why we need to let Mother Nature select replacement heifers

For some time, I have been an advocate that we cannot select replacement heifers—we should instead let the bulls and Mother Nature select them for us. To do this, I have promoted retaining and exposing most of your heifer calf crop for a short breeding season—no longer than 30 days.

Naturally you will cull the obvious poor doers, the poor dispositions and those with obvious physical trait problems. However, don’t assume that you can judge the rest very well.

A number of years ago, a group of us measured, scored and visually evaluated as many traits as we could think of that might relate to a heifer’s income-generating capability as a cow. While we did not follow this long enough to draw any definite conclusions, nothing that we measured, by itself or in combination, could predict enough of the economic difference in outcomes to confirm our belief that we could, in fact, select replacement heifers. My observations on many heifers since then have strengthened my conviction that we can’t select heifers accurately. But, the bulls and our environment can!

I now do quite a bit of speaking to cattlemen’s groups of one kind or another. After one of those talks, I was asked if I would consider using genomic testing to make a first selection of heifers and then use the short breeding season. I responded that I would not, at least not in that order. The next question was, “Why not?” [READ MORE]

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