MONITOR farmers Ed and Kate Rowell are experiencing the both the benefits and the challenges of calving heifers at aged two on their Peeblesshire farm.
They run a suckler herd of around 70 breeding females on 1,800 acres at Hundleshope on the Haystoun, which is one of the latest additions to the network of Quality Meat Scotland monitor farms.
The Rowells’ replacement heifers are either home-bred or purchased beef cross dairy heifers that have been artificially inseminated or bulled, to calve at two years of age.
But the pair experienced difficulties getting some of the first calved heifers back in calf with their second calf. Of the total of 70 females which were bulled in 2012, pregnancy diagnosis revealed 12 not in calf – four were first calvers.
Senior beef specialist with the SAC Gavin Hill recommends aiming to calve heifers a month or two earlier than the main herd.
He said: “This gives them some extra time to recover, and will improve their chances of going back in calf, to calve with the main herd in following years.”
Mr Hill added: “Give replacement heifers no more than a couple of cycles to take the bull. You only want to bring naturally, highly fertile females into the herd, so don’t hesitate to cull any not in-calf after eight weeks of opportunity.”
He added: “It is worth keeping first and second calved heifers in a separate group, giving them a little bit of extra food.While they’re rearing their calves, they’re also still growing themselves, and it’s asking a lot of them to do all that and go back in calf.”