AFBI Open days – How to make the most of early life to improve your future dairy herd

Date published: 07 May 2024

Area of Expertise:

Rearing replacement heifers is a significant investment and represents approximately 20% of total production costs on a dairy enterprise.

Investing in youngstock is the key to a productive and healthy future herd

It can take 1.5 lactations to recoup investment costs, meaning the age at which a heifer calves for the first time and joins the dairy herd is a major driver in the cost of production and a key efficiency target is an age at first calving (AFC) of 24 months.

Benefits of achieving an AFC of 24 months not only include reductions in direct rearing costs, replacement numbers and carbon footprint, but also improvements in both milk production and productive lifespan.

Calving heifers beyond 24 months of age has been shown to cost an additional £2.87/heifer/day, and with an average AFC in Northern Ireland of ~27.7 months, this can add an extra £324 per heifer to rearing costs.

Further, recent analysis carried out by AFBI and AHDB showed for every extra month over an AFC of 24 months, there was an average decrease of 16 days in productive life and a reduction in daily milk production. But how can we make sure that our dairy youngstock are meeting key targets?

QR Code for Registration
QR Code for Registration
At the Dairy “Farming for the Future” Open Day on the 18 June, the AFBI Hillsborough Dairy Research Team will present a wide range of information including best practice management for colostrum, making the most of precision technology for ill-health detection and early life nutrition. Recent research highlighting the factors affecting calf growth and performance on NI dairy farms, what mitigations can be put in place and how to monitor if targets are being met will also be discussed as part of the main tour.

Investing in youngstock is the key to a productive and healthy future herd – make sure you don’t miss out on how to make the most of your calves! For more information on this Dairy Open Day, or the Beef and Sheep one on Wednesday 19 June, and to register, please visit the AFBI Events page or by scanning the QR code.

Notes to editors: 

AFBI’s Vision is “Scientific excellence delivering impactful and sustainable outcomes for society, economy and the natural environment”.

AFBI’s Purpose is “To deliver trusted, independent research, statutory and surveillance science and expert advice that addresses local and global challenges, informs government policy and industry decision making, and underpins a sustainable agri-food industry and the natural and marine environments”.

AFBI’s core areas:

  • Leading improvements in the agri-food industry to enhance its sustainability.
  • Protecting animal, plant and human health.
  • Enhancing the natural and marine environment.


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