Harnessing the power of heifers

11 January 2018


While selecting high genetic merit bulls is the key way to inject superior genetics into a beef business, producers should consider the critical role played by retained heifers according to Bred Well Fed Well Beef program deliverer Jason Trompf.

Accelerating genetic gain

“Producers should be aiming to increase productivity, profitability and rate of genetic gain of their breeders,” Jason said.

“The higher percentage of heifer calves retained, the quicker producers can accelerate genetic gain.

“If your seedstock producer is making measured genetic gain in the traits you want and you’re selecting the right bulls for your herd, a younger herd shortens the generation interval and allows more gene turnover. Visually classing out a high number of heifers puts the handbrake on genetic improvement.”

“This strategy keeps more new, improved genetics in the herd and enables the removal of old and late-calving cows.”

He said a cow which calves later in the calving window (week eight or nine) throughout her life compared to one that calves in week one or two will produce almost the equivalent of two fewer calves (based on calf weight), which at today’s prices is close to $2,000 less income.

To make heifer retention work:

  • establish tighter calving spans (a six-week joining is recommended) to produce an even drop of heifers
  • proactively manage heifers to meet critical mating weights, drive pregnancy rates and minimise dystocia.

Tips and tools – breeding better heifers and cows

More about the new beef program

The new Bred Well Fed Well Beef program, supported by MLA, provides producers with practical steps to select, breed and manage a profitable and productive herd.

The one-day workshops take a whole-of-enterprise approach, giving beef producers a personalised guide so they can target their specific breeding objectives (read more about this here).

Producers will come away from the workshop equipped with tools to better inform bull buying decisions, such as prioritised traits for selection and target levels of performance based on estimated breeding values (EBVs) to meet their specific production goals.

There is a fee of $75/person with a minimum of 15 people required.


Breeding better heifers and cows is just one part of Bred Well Fed Well Beef. To find out more or register your interest in attending or hosting a workshop, contact:

Serina Hancock

T: 0403570823 

E: s.hancock@murdoch.edu.au 

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