Some dairy farm businesses can benefit from good genetics, careful planning and good fertility management by being able to sell dairy heifers that are surplus to their own requirements. However, DairyCo studies suggest that many dairy farmers underestimate the numbers of heifers they will need to rear and retain for their own requirements, primarily due to factors such as calf and heifer mortality, infertility in heifers and high cow culling rates.

Of course, those farmers who successfully cover their own herd replacement needs and have a surplus are able to benefit from the market in breeding age or in-calf heifers or newly-calved animals generated by others who are unable to produce sufficient replacements or who run a flying herd.

However, it is imperative that the true costs of rearing are recognised in order for them to be recouped in heifer sales. Rearing costs tend generally to be poorly accounted for.

The timing and method of marketing surplus heifers needs to be planned carefully for maximum returns; specialist sales where prices and demand are likely to be high are obvious ideal venues, although good prices may also be achieved at local level, depending upon market conditions at the time. Observation of market trends is a key element in successful heifer marketing. DairyCo's Datum webpages provide regular updated information on current cow price trends.