March 06, 2017

(Dr. Dan Thomson) Folks, welcome to the show. Dr. Dan here we’re going to have a great show our friend, Dr. KC Olson, and we’re here to talk about replacement heifer selection and we have some interns here from Gardiner Angus representing Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, and Australia. Hello, Georgie Lawrence, thanks for joining us today it’s going to be a great show. See you after these messages.

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(Dan) Hey, folks, welcome to DocTalk. Thanks for joining us. We’ve got our friend and my colleague, Dr. KC Olson, who is the Walter Lewis Chair of Range Cattle Nutrition here at Kansas State University in the Department of Animal Science and Industry, and it’s always a pleasure to have you on the show. [Dr. KC Olson] Thank you, Dan; it’s always a pleasure to be here. (Dan) We get you here, we get some good information. Today is going to be no different; we’re going to talk about, picking out replacement heifers, and some of the different things about developing and we have a schedule for today, but you wanted to start out with, how you are going to pick a replacement heifer. [KC] Sure, and for me, this is the primary focus that I have every year as a cow/calf producer. Those heifers I view as my primary product, and every terminal animal in my herd is really a convenient byproduct of that. Finding just the right female, breeding just the right female; I think takes a lifetime of work and study. I’m not a master of it by any means, but over the last 20 years I figured out what’s really important to me, and what’s really secondary Dan. (Dan) Okay. Let’s get into some of those things that we’re going to look to pick that female. What are some of the things that you’ll employ, or think about? What other characteristics do you use to pick replacement heifers? [KC] Sure, and there’s a lot of relevant questions that people can ask about, whether I should keep this female or not keep this female. What’s her confirmation like? How is she put together? What’s her temperament like? Did her mama have a good udder, things of this nature. It really comes down to two very important questions. First, I know mostly what I need to know about a heifer based on the day she’s born. In all of beef cattle production, on the female side, it’s a game of inches; success is a game of inches. If a heifer is born early in my system, she will tend to reach puberty early. If she reaches puberty early, she will tend to conceive early. If she conceives early in her first season. she’ll calve early. When she’s a first calf heifer and she will tend to re-breed sooner during her second pregnancy. That birth date is critically important. Something else, I think, that’s equally relevant is during that period of calfhood and leading up to the peri-weaning period, when I finish the weaning process, I want to know if I treated that calf for a disease of any kind; something that may have physically damaged her for the rest of her life, respiratory infections of that nature. The third question, I’m going to let Mother Nature answer this herself, is how well does she fit in my development environment. (Dan) Got you. It is when we look at the date that they’re born; obviously disease and then different things that will phenotypically show up and picking those animals they’re going to match your eye as well. Any other things, we’re going to have take a break here, but any wrap-up as to those things that you’re going to use to pick? When we come back we’re going to talk about why we use those things to pick. [KC] Sure. Assuming that those two things are the most important, there are lots of other questions to answer. (Dan) Perfect. Well, folks, thanks for watching DocTalk today. We’re going to take a break here. We’re going to have some messages. When we come back with, Dr. KC Olson, we’re going to talk about why we use those things to pick those heifers and more about replacement heifer selection after these messages.

(Dan) Hey, folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. KC Olson we’re at Kansas State University where Dr. Olson serves as the Walter Lewis Chair of Range Cattle Nutrition. He’s a ruminant nutritionist. He’s in our Department of Animal Science and does a lot of work not only with our commercial cowherd here for research, but you’re doing a lot of work in teaching and public speaking and different things of that nature, just a wealth of knowledge. It’s always great to have him on the show and we’re talking about picking replacement heifers. When you’re talking about why we pick or talking about how you pick those heifers, now let’s get into the why we use those as the indicators. (KC) Well, those two questions that we talked about. Was she born early in my system? Did I treat her for disease during calfhood? The answer to both of those questions has to be yes before I can start applying the other things that might be important as a replacement heifer. Again reproduction and reproductive success is a game of inches. If we don’t have the correct answer to those first two questions, nothing else is really very relevant. Other things that I might be interested in in that heifer, does she have a temperament that fits the development environment, fits my environment that I eventually plan to put her in as a mature cow? Is she structurally correct? Did her mom have an adequate udder? All those things are moderately heritable traits; I can bank on the fact that if her mother and father share this trait, she’s very likely to have those same traits as well. (Dan) If you take away one thing is the relative importance of picking those heifers that are born In the beginning, not only do they have a head start in more possibilities of getting to the proper breeding weight and cycling at the right time and having that first calf. But they generally wind up being better performers too. (KC) Yeah they do, early is always good with respect to a cow/calf production cycle. One of the realizations that I’ve come to is that ultimate success is taking that heifer and eventually labeling her a mature cow. That’s going to happen somewhere between two and three years of age. We do a great job in this country getting heifers pregnant for the first time. We do a lousy job getting heifers pregnant for the second time. If she has the benefit of early, let’s just call it early during her first pregnancy, she’s going to have just a little bit extra time postpartum to get ready to get pregnant the second time. After her second calf she should have again just a little bit more time to get ready to get pregnant,. That postpartum and estrous interval is a little bit unpredictable. And giving that heifer just a little extra chance to get through it and become that mature cow we’re all looking for again is a question about time. (Dan) Yes, and it keeps them in the herd. It keeps them employed, it keeps them working, it keeps them putting calves on the ground. It’s important. Well, we’re going to take a break. Dr. Olson is going to get into some of the things that we’re going to do to develop these heifers, and we’re going to take them from the time in which we get them weaned, and then we start to develop those heifers and bring them forward into the herd. You’re watching DocTalk. Thanks for joining us. More with Dr. KC Olson after these messages.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson and Dr. KC Olson, we’re from Kansas State University where we’re both gainfully employed. Dr. Olson is the Walter Lewis Chair of Range Cattle Nutrition over in the Department of Animal Science. He’s a ruminant nutritionist that does a lot of work in commercial cowherds whether it’s for K-State or for himself. You have a little skin in the game. (KC) I do. I hope that makes me relevant. (Dan) It does make you relevant. When we’re talking about replacement heifers, so we’ve selected them. Now we’ve got to get them to develop. Talk to me about when we start with the process of developing heifers and what really goes into that? (KC) Well, traditionally, the development process starts at weaning and the first bit of it goes between weaning and that first pregnancy. Now the goals that are associated with heifer development are actually pretty conservative. We want to get her to between 55% and 65% of her mature weight at the time that we first expose her for breeding. In most systems, if we weaned a heifer at 500 pounds, she’s only going to have to gain two to 250 pounds between that moment of weaning and the time that we first expose her. The rate of gain goals are very conservative folks. We’re talking in most cases less than two pounds maybe even less than a pound and a half. Now with that flexibility in the performance that we need, we also have flexibility in the environment that we can use to develop that heifer. And here’s a piece of wisdom that I’ve found is true over and over again, you’ve got to make that heifer fit the environment that she’s going to have to fit as a mature cow. Okay, alter your mature cow management system with a little extra nutrition so that heifer can start to learn, from the time she weans through her first pregnancy until she gets that first calf on the ground. Okay, that wisdom that she gains in learning how to forge like a mature cow is going to pay big dividends and there’s research to back that up. Not just my opinion. (Dan) Well, I’ve always heard, Dr. Boggs — Dr. Don Boggs had always said, “You pick your cows to match your environment”- (KC) Yes. (Dan) -“and you pick your bull to match your market”- [Laughter] (KC) He’s a wise man. (Dan) When we’re talking about this, it just resonated with me that to get that. Talk to me about — we’re getting them to about 60 to 65% of their mature weight. One of the things that people forget with those heifers is that: number one, we need to know what their weights are on a nutritional basis, but we also need to know where they’re at physiologically because they’re not only gestating, they’re growing, and so, development of the heifer can be a little more than just feeding cows. (KC) Well, it’s tough because at any one time during that heifer development cycle, you’re going to encounter maintenance, growth, gestation, and lactation. Okay, and that’s the only time in the animal sciences that we get all four of those things that we have to account for nutritionally. (Dan) Yes. We’re putting on frame, folks. We’re putting on body weight. We’re putting on — we’re lactating, gestating, many different things, and it’s a pretty trying time when you think about managing the health, managing the development. (KC) And don’t forget learning. Learning has to occur during that period of time as well; we’re training that heifer to be a mature cow. (Dan) Perfect. Folks, we’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’ll wrap up with Dr. KC Olson on how to select and develop replacement heifers.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan here with Dr. KC Olson, who is the Walter Lewis Chair of Range Cattle Nutrition at Kansas State University, and he’s a dang good friend and a person I enjoy working with very, very much. We’re talking about picking replacement heifers and one of the things, as we were talking during the break, was some people use drylot, some people use pasture for heifer development. What are some of the different pluses and minuses to those? (KC) Sure. Well, a drylot environment and a program diet allow you to program that rate of gain. If you need a pound and a half every day between weaning and that first breeding, it’s easy to get that in a drylot environment, but there are things you give up as well. Being successful in a pasture range environment takes training and a lot of what a heifer knows, she learns from her mother, but that training is not complete. She’s going to have to learn to do things on her own, and a piece of research I can point to came out of South Dakota State a number of years back. A graduate student, that I was associated with, he developed some heifers in a drylot environment only and some he developed in a pasture environment. The drylot heifers were not turned out to graze until the beginning of breeding season, and of course, the one’s that were developed on pasture were out there the whole time. There was a 10% better breed-up in those heifers that had been reared in a pasture environment. The ones that hadn’t actually lost weight during the first weeks they were out there in the pasture. They don’t know what they’re doing. You put them in a new environment at breeding time; you’re going to cause a few of them to fail. Make your heifer development environment look a lot like the environment that those animals are going to have to fit as mature cows. (Dan) That make perfect sense, and obviously, depending on how much grass you have or things of that nature, there’d be other limiting factors, but understand, there’s going to be a trade-off. If you have to bring them in – (KC) That’s right. (Dan) -then, that might happen. We have a little bit of time here, KC. What are some of the traits that heifers have that add value or bring value? (KC) Number one and the hardest one to get to is fertility and in selecting for fertility, can take a lifetime. It can take a lifetime just to move it a few points in a positive direction. Don’t forget the value of heterosis in creating fertility. Those hard to reach traits, genetically, respond very strongly to crossbreeding, so keep that in mind. The other trait that doesn’t cost you money, it doesn’t take any real selection on your part, is again making that heifer learn to be successful in her environment. You are in fact allowing nature to help you in that selection process. If she doesn’t fit that environment, it doesn’t matter how good she looks, or how early she was born, she is not going to be a successful cow. (Dan) Outstanding information. Pick those heifers at firstborn, at the first of the calving cycle, many different things on developing. Work with your local veterinarian, work with your nutritionist, work with the Extension Agent; many different areas of expertise out there for you to utilize. If you want to know more about what we do here at DocTalk, you can find us on the web at Thank you Dr. Olson, for being here. Folks, Dr. KC Olson, from Kansas State. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson, you’ve been watching DocTalk and I’ll see you down the road.

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