Heifers: Group or not to group?
Heifers need their own space
Heifers need their own space to be able to perform best. This was demonstrated by earlier studies that show that when first-calf heifers are separated, feed intake, lying time and hence milk production is increased. “Many farmers don’t realise that heifers represent a separate group of animals. They exhibit specific behaviour and have specific needs,” according to Associate Professor Frank van Eerdenburg of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht, the Netherlands. One of the participating commercial dairy farms from the Sense of Sensors field study decided to go from mixed pens to a separate heifer group, as he was not happy with the milk production of the heifers when housed in the mixed pens. A comparison before and after this management change shows the benefits of a separate heifer group. By using sensors it could be shown that in a separate group, the heifers have a higher lying time, make less steps and a similar feeding time ultimately resulting in 6% milk production increase. And this is the data from real cows on the farm.