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Cost of Raising Dairy Heifers Skyrocket
June 13, 2014

Last year’s high feed prices sent the cost of raising heifers toward the stratosphere, according a survey of Wisconsin dairy farms and custom heifer growers.
By Jim Dickrell

The average cost of raising a heifer sot up $600 between 2007 and 2013, to about $2,200 per head, says Mark Hagedorn, a University of Wisconsin Extension agricultural agent based in Eau Claire. He led a team of four other Extension personnel in collecting the data. Note: These costs do not include the cost of the heifer.

The biggest reason for the jump was last year’s high feed prices, he says. When corn hit $7/bu, feed costs jumped 10¢ per head per day or $70 to $80 for the entire growing period. Those prices were also reflected in higher costs for corn silage and alfalfa haylage.

The cheaper corn prices this year will bring heifer raising costs back down. But lower forage prices won’t be realized until 2014 crops are harvested, he points out.

The survey also shows that custom calf and heifer raisers typically have lower costs than farms which raise their own replacements. That’s likely due to more specialized management and economies of scale.

In general, however, all farmers seem to be doing a better job of raising heifers. The average age of calving when the survey was first done in 1999 was 24.6 months. Last year, that dropped to 23.4 months.


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