Economics of 2-year-old heifer mating

I asked Phil Tither to help quantify the bottom line improvements from calving as two year olds. Using farmax, and basing the model on a pretend farm similar in nature and size of Surreydale, he has produced the following article. For anyone wanting more detail and help, please contact Phil.

Summary of Results

Heifers programmed for calving as 2-year-olds require a higher level of feed intake and instead of being a lower priority animal need to be allocated enough quality finishing feed to achieve target mating weight and most importantly, re-breeding as 2-year-olds.

Our Farmax analysis suggests the return on this additional feed is excellent at over 43 cents per kg of extra dry matter eaten. This marginal return is over 4 times what the base beef cow enterprise is generating. Successful heifer mating has the potential to lift the overall beef breeding enterprise returns by 16%. The purchase of well bred bulls and implementing management systems to achieve target results provides an excellent return.

The model

This model is based on a system similar (not exactly the same) to the Surreydale farm system which includes

  • 1700 effective hectares of summer safe breeding country
  • 400 cows
  • 9000 ewes

We have assumed a pasture growth of 7.4 tonne of dry matter annually and a feed demand of 6 ton (11 stock unit equivalents)

In this model we have left sheep performance consistent between the 2 models with 137% lambing from the ewes, hoggets not mated.

The beef cow enterprise assumes that steers are sold at weaning and only the target number of replacement heifers kept to maintain the cow herd at 400 cows.

In order to provide the extra feed that the R1 and R2 heifers require to achieve target mating and re-breeding weights we have reduced sheep numbers by 2%  ( 206 head) in order to be able to carry the additional 35 rising one year heifers and to provide them with the required extra dry matter.

Key Assumptions

We have assumed that the yearling heifers achieve an average mating weight of 330 kg in early November which is just over 60% of the assumed mature cow size of 540 kg.

We have assumed that if heifers are grown out until 2-year-olds before first mated we would end up with a mature cow size of 560 kg (20 kgs heavier) and consequently the weaning weight of the 3-year-old Calving herd would be slightly higher than those whose phenotypic live weight had been held back by calving younger.

The table below outlines the key differences between the models.

The Farmax gross margin shows that the extra 80 Calves, and other changes to the beef enterprise, generate an additional $53,761 but the reduction in sheep numbers cost the system $22,263.

After allowing for some reduction in costs because of reduced sheep numbers the net result is an increased gross margin of $34,712 from the yearling heifer mating enterprise.