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 Using Wheat Pasture
     Years of research and experience with stocker cattle wintered on small grain pasture proves that this is a good choice for a heifer growing ration. Heifers weaned in October are old enough to make good use of wheat pasture that becomes available in late November. In those years where good wheat pasture is grown, grazing the heifers on wheat will allow the 1.5 pounds per dry gain throughout the winter growing period. Heifers wintered on good wheat pasture will be ready to enter the breeding season in April or early May in excellent body condition and at the target weight. Some caution must be taken to avoid severe weight and condition loss if heifers are wintered on wheat pasture, removed from wheat on March 15 and then placed on lower quality pasture such as native or bermuda until the breeding season begins. Setting aside a few acres of small grain pasture for "graze-out" would allow the replacement heifers to graze high quality pasture well into May. When comparing the price of renting wheat pasture with those programs listed above, you should note the price per pounds of gain of the least expensive scenario in table 2 is 41 cents. The most expensive program costs 81 cents per pound of gain. Wheat pasture, if available, will compete well with those costs.

Using Ionophores in Replacement Heifer Diets
     In an effort to insure more replacement heifers are bred to calve early in their first calving season, ranchers should consider using a supplement containing an ionophore in the growing diet of the heifers. "Ionophore" is the generalized name for the feed additives monensin (Rumensin) and lasalocid (Bovatec). Both are presently approved for use with growing programs for replacement heifers.

     Research conducted in Texas and Wyoming indicated that growing heifers fed 200 mg monensin per head per day reached puberty at an earlier age than did similar heifers fed similar diets containing no monensin. Similar data is available for lasalocid.

     Most stocker cattle research has indicated that the addition of 100-200 mg of an ionophore will increase average daily gain by .1 to .2 pound per day. Over a 150 day growing period of a replacement heifer, this means an additional 15-30 pounds in average weight improvement of the heifers by breeding time.

Summary of Replacement Development
The most economical growing program for replacement heifers is going to utilize standing or harvested forages as a major portion of the diet. Heifers may be grown slowly then given higher energy feed to accelerate the rate of gain to achieve the required 65% of mature size by the start of the breeding season.

     Utilize the highest quality hays and/or the best pastures because young cattle cannot utilize low quality roughage as well as the mature cows.

     Use an ionophore to improve feed utilization and hasten the onset of puberty.

     Wheat pasture will make an excellent growing program for fall weaned replacement heifers.

OSU Cow/Calf Corner

 Heifers Growing


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