Dairymen invest in heifers today in hopes that they become productive members of the herd in the future. Rearing costs vary from farm to farm, and the only way to truly measure that investment is to crunch the numbers for your own operation.

University of Wisconsin-Extension has, however, collected data from dairies to get a general idea of what real farms are paying to raise calves and heifers. The last data collection occurred in 2013, when the cost to raise a heifer from birth to freshening was $2,377 (including a $150 value for the calf).

A lot can change in two years, and for this reason, Matt Akins, Extension Specialist, and Mark Hagedorn, Agriculture Agent, decided to update the numbers from 2013 with prices from today.

The biggest difference they discovered was the cost of feed from weaning to freshening. The value placed on ration ingredients changed from 2013 to 2015, as shown in the table.

feed price comparisons

As a result, the cost of feed for heifers from weaning to freshening went down about 10 percent, from $1,046 in 2013 to $910 today. This is a difference of 34 cents per heifer per day.

Besides lower feed costs, the amount spent on fixed costs, variable costs, labor and milk/milk replacer remained fairly steady . . . but the cost to raise dairy replacements still went up. Why? The value of a heifer calf.

A heifer was assumed to be worth $150 in 2013; in 2015, that value rose to $400. A more expensive animal elevates both death loss and interest values in this calculation.

With the animal value factored in, the total average cost to raise a heifer from birth to freshening in 2015 was $2,510. That was up from $2,377 in 2013, $2,149 in 2007 and $1,359 in 1999, when University of Wisconsin-Extension first collected this data.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2015
November 9, 2015
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