A survey of beef cattle farmers in New Zealand, examining management practices of primiparous breeding heifers

TitleA survey of beef cattle farmers in New Zealand, examining management practices of primiparous breeding heifers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHickson, R E., Anderson W.J., Kenyon P R., Lopez-Villalobos N., and Morris S T.
JournalNew Zealand Veterinary Journal
Volume56
Issue4
Pagination176 - 183
Date Published2008
ISBN Number00480169 (ISSN)
Keywordsdystocia
Abstract

AIM: To obtain an estimate of the incidence of assistance at calving in primiparous (first-calving) beef heifers and the prevalence of breeding heifers at 15 months of age in New Zealand in 2006, and to identify factors contributing to farmers' decisions regarding breeding strategies for heifers, using a survey of beef cattle farmers. METHODS: A questionnaire was sent to farmers listed in a Massey University database and to members of selected breed societies, as well as published in an industry newspaper; 331 valid responses were received. Information was gathered on the age and number of primiparous heifers, number of heifers assisted, and the importance of various reasons for and against breeding heifers at 15 months of age. Respondents were also required to outline the criteria used for selecting bulls to join with heifers, and the strategies used to manage dystocia in primiparous heifers. RESULTS: Sixty-five (95% CI=58-71)% of respondents had only 2-year-old primiparous heifers in 2006, whilst a further 11 (95% CI=8-16)% had both 2- and 3-year-old primiparous heifers. The mean reported incidence of assisted calving was 7.0 (95% CI=6.4-7.5)% for 2-year-old primiparous heifers and 1.7 (95% CI=1.2-2.2)% for 3-year-old primiparous heifers. The reported incidence of assistance at calving within individual herds ranged from 0 to 100% for 2-year-old heifers. Respondents with bull-breeding herds most commonly observed their primiparous 2-year-old heifers twice daily, whilst respondents with commercial herds most commonly observed them once daily during calving. The most important reason for breeding heifers at 15 months of age was "increased profit", whereas the most important reason for not breeding them at that age was "concern about rebreeding performance of 2-year-old heifers". Estimated breeding value (EBV) for birthweight was the factor considered most frequently when selecting bulls to join with maiden heifers; age of bull and body shape of bull were the next most frequently considered factors. Selection of an appropriate bull was the most common strategy used to manage dystocia in 2-year-old beef heifers. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of respondents calved their heifers at 2 years of age, and "increased profit" was the primary motivator. Concern about the rebreeding performance of 2-year-old heifers was the most important reason among the remainder of respondents for not breeding heifers at 15 months of age. Dystocia in 2-year-old heifers was "not a problem" or "a minor problem" in most herds, but there was much variation amongst herds.

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