Summer is drawing to an end, and many of the County and State Fairs are coming to a close. That means it is time for all the fluffy young prospects to be hitting the magazine ads and internet. Seeing these cute little heifers clipped to the max can make about anyone get the fever to go out and buy one. For the first time buyers, this can be not only an exciting time, but a scary one too. So many questions: What do I need? What do I do?
Even though whole books could be written on this subject, I am going to try and break it down into one blog.
The very first thing you have to know is where you are going to keep your heifer. Some basic requirements are; shelter to keep them out of bad weather and provide shade in the heat of the summer, pens with adequate drainage to allow your heifer to move around and keep them from having to stand in mud all day long, and clean water. It is also good to have a place where you can wash your animal. The point of washing is to get them clean, so washing in a mudhole every day is counter-productive.
There are numerous options for feed for you heifer, and they can vary greatly in price and quality. The two most important requirements when selecting a feed is that it meets all the nutritional needs and that it can be easily obtained so you can keep a fresh batch on hand at all times. Some great sources for input on which feed to use include your 4-H or FFA leader, your breeder that you are purchasing the heifer from, or your local feed store. Don’t get wrapped up in all the different feed additives out there. If you have a good, consistent, complete feed, from my experience, you will not need these additives. You will also need a source of good quality hay to feed with your grain.
Again, whole books can be written on this topic alone. The key items you need though are a rope halter, a solid fence with no sharp objects like nails sticking out, and an alley or small pen that you can easily put the halter on the animal. When halter breaking, staying calm because having patience will be your best tool.
The cost of cattle equipment, and especially show equipment can be very eye-opening to a new owner. Here are the basic musts to owning a heifer. Owning, or easy access to a truck and trailer. You never know when you might need to take your animal to the vet. A squeeze and/or blocking chute for your daily activities with your animal, and the occasional treatment of sickness. Combs, halter, and show stick for preparing your animal to show. A livestock fan and livestock blower are not a must, but will be well worth the investment if you plan on washing your heifer regularly and would like to keep some of that fluffy hair that you originally fell in love with.
This is the most overlooked part of owning a heifer. Unless you are planning on showing a market heifer, you will need to have a plan on how you will get your heifer bred. Producing baby calves is the whole purpose of a breeding heifer. First you need to decide if you are going to use the natural service of a bull, or you are going to have her artificially inseminated. Also, no matter how you breed your heifer, you MUST choose a sire that is proven to have safe birth weights for heifers.
Long Term Plan
The next part of buying a heifer that most new buyers do not consider is what are you going to do with your heifer after you are all done showing her. Basically the two options are to sell the heifer or keep her for a cow. Selling a heifer is not nearly as easy as buying a heifer because you have already used up the one use that a lot of buyers are looking for-being able to show it. Keeping a heifer is not that easy either if you do not have readily available pasture and facilities that can be used if calving difficulties occur.
Proper planning and realistic expectations can make the purchase of a heifer an enjoyable experience.