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Reproductive health and management practices for beef heifers

Project start date: 20 December 2020
Project end date: 30 January 2024
Project status: In progress
Livestock species: Grass-fed Cattle
Relevant regions: Southern Australia
Site location: Limestone Coast Region, South Australia


This Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) is designed to optimise the reproductive potential of heifers through to second calving, and improve cattle herd health, welfare, productivity, and profitability.


By December 2023, in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia:

  1. 12 core producers will comprehensively measure and monitor pasture quantity and quality, condition score and heifer performance from weaning through to second calving.

  2. 4 producer heifer demonstration sites (from within the core producer group) will also record the impact of different health issues and disease burdens on the overall reproductive rates of heifers and second time calvers over a 3-year period and develop a cost-benefit analysis for preventative health treatments.

  3. 100% of the core producer group will have improved their skills and knowledge in relation to the management of heifers and second calvers, to contribute to their enterprise profitability. This will include live animal assessment; pasture availability and quality assessment; routine pregnancy scanning; recording reproductive data; management of animals according to liveweight, condition score and nutritional requirements; and identification and prevention of losses due to animal health conditions.

  4. As a result of adoption of selected management techniques demonstrated or discussed within the PDS, 70% of producers within the core group will have increased their reproductive performance, along with having reduced mortality rates relative to their baseline data where possible.

  5. The core producers will be well-linked into the MLA R&D project 'Optimising heifer development and management to increase whole herd profit', with extension and adoption activities continuing beyond the life of the PDS project.

  6. 20% of the observer group (50 additional producers) will have engaged in the project through either online webinar forums and field days and increased their knowledge and skills in relation to heifer and second calver reproductive performance.

  7. 10% of the observer group (25 additional producers) will have adopted or intend to adopt selected management techniques demonstrated or discussed within the PDS.


This Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) project aimed to quantify and reduce the reproductive wastage that occurs from first time heifer joining through to second calving. It was set up to link in with the University of Adelaide’s MLA funded research and development project B. GPB.0038, ‘Optimising heifer development and management to increase whole herd productivity,’ to achieve a faster rate of on-farm adoption of scientific research.  

Within the three-year project, 19 participating beef businesses, representing around 18,000 breeding cows across 50,000 ha of farmland within the Limestone Ccoast region of South Australia, monitored their 2020 drop heifers in relation to liveweight, body condition score, animal health and reproductive rates from weaning through to second calving in 2023.  

Twelve interactive, technical sessions were conducted across eleven host properties from within the group. With a strong emphasis on industry collaboration and interaction between researchers, veterinarians, livestock advisers and peer-to-peer learning, producers within the group increased their knowledge and skills for managing their breeding herd for improved health and reproduction by 78%.   

Benefits to the wider Southern beef industry have included the development of extension articles, producer case studies, podcasts, and videos. This group will continue to provide a platform for R&D producer consultation and extension, as well as providing mentoring opportunities for early career livestock consultants for a further three years as a dedicated beef discussion group. 

Get involved

Contact the PDS faciliator:

Elke Hocking