Dairy farmers are losing out on potential milk production by not paying enough attention to heifer rearing and target weights for replacements, Teagasc expert Emer Kennedy has warned.
With the cost of a replacement heifer now standing at €1,451, Ms Kennedy warned that achieving target weight at mating start date was critical to maximising future milking performance and survival in the herd.
"The core of any successful dairy farm is a generation of well-reared heifers for both replacement and expansion," she said.
"Farmers must ensure that their breeding policy produces heifers that are genetically superior to the herd average, creating the 'engine' for milk production over the coming years."
However, the Teagasc specialist claimed that on many Irish dairy farms, heifer rearing was not a high priority and achieving target weights was not an issue of concern.
"Reduced levels of management will result in less profit, as heifers may calve later than 24 months and produce less milk compared to better managed heifers," Ms Kennedy said.
"Well-bred heifers, if calved early, can significantly improve herd calving pattern," she added, pointing out that this would help farmers capitalise on any bonus payments for early milk production.