Replacement Heifers: Meet Tippy…

Every once in a while someone will jokingly tease my husband that we should have another child. I immediately reply that he will need a replacement heifer in order to accomplish this as my days of pregnancy are far behind me. While my three girls are unquestioningly the best thing that I have done with my life, I did not do pregnancy well and my third triggered an autoimmune disease that brought a difficult and unforeseen challenge to my life journey.


With only three successful pregnancies, I would have made a lousy breeding cow…

In all seriousness, the decision of which heifers (female calves) to keep on the home ranch to use in the breeding herd is one of the most important decisions that a rancher makes. Most ranchers keep a portion of their female calves on the ranch to become replacement heifers. These animals will go on to become breeding cows and replace the cows in the herd that are no longer reproductively sound. The majority of these replacement heifers will spend 10 years or more successfully making baby calves.

Her first year of calving she was called a "replacement heifer" as she took the place of an older cow who could no longer have babies...

Her first year of calving she is called a “replacement heifer” or a “first calf heifer”. Her job is the stay on the ranch — have baby calves — and care for them for the first 6-9 months of their lives.  After her first year in the breeding herd, she is called a cow…

There are a number of criteria that ranchers use when determining which replacement heifers to keep. A few of those might be:

  • Confirmation of the animal — good feet/legs, smooth walking gait, good overall physical frame and muscling.
  • Phenotypic Uniformity — many times solid colored with a generally appealing appearance.
  • Heifers from mothers who have historically good fertility and maternal traits as well as calving ease and nice personalities.

    Al and his daughter, Tessa, have a ranch near Halsey, NE.  I have worked with Al for more than 10 years -- feeding his steers and the heifers that are not chosen to be kept for replacement heifers...

    Al and his daughter, Tessa, have a ranch near Halsey, NE. I have worked with Al for almost 15 years — feeding his steers and the heifers that are not chosen to be kept for replacements in the breeding herd…

Those heifers that are not chosen to serve as replacements are sold and often end up at feed yards like mine. Sometimes they are animals that ranchers have a soft spot for, but do not keep for the breeding herd because they do not meet their set criteria. This is the case with Yellow #042…

We will learn more about Tippy in the next couple of months as she lives and grows at the feed yard...

We will learn more about Tippy in the next couple of months as she lives and grows at the feed yard…

My favorite blondes have named her “Tippy”. Can you guess why she didn’t make the replacement heifer cut?


Filed under Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, General

11 responses to “Replacement Heifers: Meet Tippy…

  1. John Butler

    Happy belated Easter anne.

    John Butler Sent from my iPhone

  2. Bobbi

    We have started using DNA to help pick out the very best replacement heifers that will not only have great maternal traits for calving ease and fertility but who will most likely produce steer calves and non-replacement heifers that will be feed efficient and have above average carcass traits. We select about 15-20% more heifers than we need then once the DNA samples come back we kick out any that don’t meet our set criteria for 12 different traits. Sometimes the heifer we thought was the top of her class will not look quite as good as what we thought she should. Then sometimes we get results on a heifer and they look just like . at we thought they would. I can wait until we get far enough down this road and get enough calves finished through the feedlot to see how well this (along with bull selection) will improve the way our cattle perform both at the ranch and feedlot. Just another tool that we have added to our tool box.

  3. Amy Johnson

    Lack of Phenotypic Uniformity?

  4. Mike Merriman

    Freemartin ?

  5. Evan Van Beusekom

    My first guess is the same as Mike’s. However it could also be due to her white markings. The markings are similar to the ones that purebred Simmentals have crop up occasionally – and they are hereditary. If there is to much white on her offspring it would affect the ability of the offspring to market CAB. Or she could be a cross and she would be undesirable as a replacement because she would not fit the goal of the producer to have a consistent stable genotype in his cow herd.

  6. Rex

    Your list of selection criteria is a great start. By providing carcass data, you provide a service many ranchers desire and have the ability to use. We use UNL’s cow/calf program to manage additional selection criteria. In addition to the criteria listed above, we use carcass weight, yield, grad and value, dam’s udder and teat scores, dam and heifer hip height, weight, dam’s mppa (ability to milk to raise a large calf), dam’s calving record and fleshing ability, and disposition.

  7. Ha! We have a replacement heifer that looks almost identical to Tippy! The reason she made the cut? Two little bitty granddaughters gave their Grandpa the big eyes, because they loved the colors so much and wanted a baby to match!

  8. Swell looking heifers and good explanation! We try to weed out our black and white faces, but occasionally we have one that is just too good of a heifer to pass up.

  9. cara

    too much white

  10. I guess personality trait/maternal traits of her mother unless she’s a free martin. We don’t mind that much white and she looks good otherwise.

    I have a “tippy” white colored heifer that is pretty high strung and helped me break a toe in three places last fall. She’s going to market next week. 🙂

    Fun series, Anne! I’m looking forward to following along.
    Emily Grace

  11. I love all of your comments and input. Thank you so much to everyone that shared thoughts about replacement heifers and “Tippy”!

    The short answer to why “Tippy” did not make the cut is her white markings, and Al’s desire to produce calves that qualify phenotypically for Certified Angus Beef markets. Evan’s answer is the closest, although many of you hit on it from one angle or another.

    Al’s daughter (Tessa) really wanted to keep Tippy as she became somewhat attached to her on the ranch, but Al was steadfast with his standards. It would have been an interesting test to see if he could have resisted the “big eyes” of his grandchildren as MaKaela pointed out 🙂

    Again, I really appreciate everyone who took the time to post a response. It is fun!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s