The cost of raising heifers is often above their market value. A slide rule* for heifer raising costs at various weights with labor included would be $2.33 per head per day at 700 pounds with $0.10 slide down for each 100 pounds under 700 pounds and a $0.15 – $0.25 slide up for each 100 pounds over 700 pounds. Breeding age heifers, of course, run a bit higher due to extra labor and breeding fees at this age. Realize costs vary greatly from farm to farm. Thus, know this thumb-rule “slide guide” is just that–a thumb-rule guide. Calculate your own costs for more accuracy. Feed cost should change about $0.15/head/day for each 100 pounds calculated with feed prices below:

Heifer Costs 2019* |
Size | 700 | 15.75 | lbs DM daily | ||

Corn Price | $3.25 | bu | 5 | lbs | $0.29 | /hd/day |

Hay Price | $140 | ton | 10 | lbs | $0.56 | /hd/day |

Supplement | $0.18 | lb | 1.5 | lbs | $0.27 | /hd/day |

2.25% | BW | 16.5 | lbs | $1.12 | /hd/day | |

Feed Costs = | $0.068 | lb feed |

Estimated cost of raising heifers from 2017 is shown in the table on the right as costs did not change much since that time. For 24 months of feeding, around six tons of dry matter is needed per heifer for a total feed cost of $1,167. The livestock costs add another $268.40. Facilities and equipment add another $240.62 for a total of $1,672.02 before heifer ownership cost or labor is considered. This equates to a cost of $2.30 per head per day without labor on average or a cost of $2.67 per head per day with labor included. For producers selling raised heifers, the ownership cost of $110 (interest on investment) and the initial calf value of $175 in this example needs to be added in to obtain a break-even sale value of $2,241 over the 24-month period.

Reducing the heifer raising period from 24 months to 23 months saves approximately $93 per heifer. For a 100-cow herd raising 40 replacements each year, this savings would equal $3,720 per year. Reducing the cull rate by 10% would further reduce heifers needed by four thus reducing heifer raising costs by another $7,892 ($2,148 -$175 calf value = $1,991 x 4). Since studies prove rotational grazing of dairy heifers reduces the cost of raising heifers, this budget has 1.25 ton of pasture forage per heifer included.

It typically costs $5-$6 per calf per day to raise a calf from birth to weaning. A 56-day birth-weaning period typically has an estimated $336 of expenses. If this birth-to-weaning cost is subtracted, along with the ownership cost and initial value of the heifer, the cost to raise from weaning-to-calving is $1,620 over 674 days or $2.40 per day for the average weight heifer. For custom heifer raisers who obtain the heifers after weaning without taking ownership, the previous thumb-rule would be a good starting point for negotiations but could vary depending which costs above feed costs (veterinary, medicine, breeding, and bedding) need to be recovered. Returns to labor and facilities are often very negotiable from one producer to the next depending on opportunity costs of each due to facility age or demand for use.

Source: Iowa State Extension