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High Risk Of Unwanted Pregnancies In Heifer Calves

20 November 2020

The dry weather in the spring followed by excellent conditions for grass growth has resulted in calves being particularly strong this year, in many herds across the country.  While this is excellent news from an efficiency and profitability point of view, we are hearing some worrying reports, from vets and scanners all over the country.  There have been a large number of heifer calves being found to be in calf, some of which have been bulled as early as 4 months.  We know that puberty is driven by weight rather than age in cattle, so the fact that your heifer calves are particularly strong this year should be an early warning.

The cause of heifers falling in calf will vary from herd to herd, some will have been bulled by a stock bull during the bulling period, while others will have been served by their siblings later in the season.  Prevention is always better than cure, so, all businesses should be looking at their systems and make necessary changes to reduce the level of unplanned pregnancy in their heifers.  Remember while it is a relatively uncommon occurrence, one unplanned pregnancy can lead to welfare issues, financial losses and a lot of stress.

For calving 2021, now is the time to stop and think what happened, was the bull out for too long, were entire bull calves running with heifers in the bulling season, were heifer calves seen in heat earlier than normal?  If in doubt check it out.  Don’t assume it’ll be fine, have a conversation with your vet and keep an eye on your heifer calves.  If needs be, these young heifers can be scanned the same way as cows, the only difference is that rather than hoping for a positive result as we do in cows, in this scenario, you’d be hoping for a negative.

Robert Ramsay,

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