An economic analysis of heifer rearing and breeding selection in GB

Aims & Objectives
To enable farmers to optimize their heifer rearing system for greater profitability thereby improving the viability of the UK dairy herd.

  • Develop a flexible heifer-rearing model structure that represents the complex biological, economic and social interactions which can be modified according to the farmer's management strategy
  • Conduct an analysis of the direct and indirect costs of rearing heifers in the UK dairy industry
  • Determine the benefits of including heifer growth and fertility traits in selection indices
  • Determine farm-level and national impacts of current genetic selection indices for lactation yield versus longevity using a cost-effectiveness framework.

Expected Outcomes

  • Accurate data on the cost of heifer replacement in different management systems accounting for the cost of prematurely culled animals
  • Identify critical management decision points during the rearing process
  • Estimation of longevity index (LI%) to cover the costs of heifer replacement in different management systems
  • Cost-effectiveness analysis of the best selection trait(s) for lactation yield, longevity and overall herd sustainability.

Start Date
Oct 2010

Completion Date
Oct 2014

Lead Contractor
Royal Veterinary College, University of London 

AHDB Dairy

Scientific literature

Boulton, A.C., Rushton, J., Wathes, D.C. 2017. An empirical analysis of the cost of rearing dairy heifers from brith to first calving and the time taken to repay these costs. Animal DOI:

Boulton, A.C., Rushton, J., Wathes, D.C., 2015. A study of dairy heifer rearing practices from birth to weaning and their associated costs on UK dairy farms. Open Journal of Animal Science 5, 185-197

Boulton, A.C., Rushton, J., Wathes, D.C. 2015. The management and associated costs of rearing heifers on UK dairy farms from weaning to conception. Open Journal of Animal Science, Vol 5, No. 3 p294-308

Boulton, A.C., Rushton, J., Wathes, D.C. 2015. Analysis of the management and costs associated with rearing pregnant dairy heifers in the UK from Conception to Calving. Open Journal of Animal Sciences Vol 5, No 4 p474-485

Boulton, A.C., Rushton, J., Wathes, C.M., Wathes, D.C. 2011. Past trends and future challenges for a sustainable UK dairy industry. Royal Agricultural Society of England Journal 172, 1-7.

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