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