Established in 1990 - The Original Professional Heifer Development and Research Center

Frequently Asked Questions About Professional Heifer Development







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We often receive telephone calls from potential customers, industry-related individuals and educational-type personel regarding professional heifer development. Therefore, we have developed a list of frequently asked questions relating to the topic and to the Heartland program in general. We hope this page will help answer any questions you might have and we invite you to contact our office to discuss them in more detail if you'd like!

Q: Where are you located?

    A: We are located six miles southeast of McCook, NE (Southwestern Nebraska). Our location provides a relatively mild climate and plentiful feed resources.(See our link for directions.)
Q: What is your total yard capacity?
    A: The heifer yard has a total one-time capacity of 5,000 head of replacement heifers.
Q: How many heifers do I have to have to participate in your program?
    A: We have pen space for 60, 80, 100, and 120 head groups with ample bunk space for every animal. Groups of heifers with more than 120 head will be sorted into small and large cuts based on an initial weight and frame score sort. Cattle will then be fed as separate groups to meet the specific nutritional requirements of the different frame sizes.
Q: What type of rations do you feed?
    A: Corn, silage, cane and alfalfa are the primary feed ingredients. All feed is produced and purchased from neighboring farms that are under irrigation. This helps to guarantee consistent feed quality and competitive feed prices. Rations are sampled and analyzed every two weeks to ensure the highest quality possible. Dr. Patsy Houghton, co-owner and staff nutritionist, body condition scores each pen of heifers every week to tailor the nutritional program for each source of cattle.
Q: Do you do any bull breeding or will all the heifers be artificially inseminated?
    A: All heifers developed and bred through the Heartland program will be 100% artificially inseminated. There will be NO clean up bulls on the premises and all heifers will be synchronized and bred for a 30 or 45-day breeding season, depending on the customer's preference. Heifers will NOT be exposed to bulls for a “clean-up season”.
Q: How long will my heifers be at Heartland for the development / breeding program?
    A: The standard program requirement is 180 days. This includes a 90-day developmental period, a 45-day breeding season, and a 45-day post-breeding period. However, customers will often bring heifers much earlier than required due to a feed shortage at home or to utilize our calf-weaning services and marketing options for the non-replacement quality heifers.
Q: Why do my heifers need to be under your care for a 90-day developmental period?
    A: Research data has shown that this period of development prior to the breeding season is one of the most critical stages in the heifer's lifetime. Nutritional development during this phase can affect long-term fertility, milk production, and longevity in the cowherd. We feel that controlling the nutrition of the heifers during this phase is essential to a successful breeding program for our customers. In addition, having the heifers on-site during this stage allows us to perform prebreeding exams prior to the breeding season to eliminate any heifers not qualified for the breeding program.
Q: What are prebreeding exams and when are they done?
    A: Prebreeding exams are performed approximately 45 days prior to the onset of the breeding season. They include an individual weight, hip height (frame score), reproductive tract score (two-part score for both the ovaries and the uterus), pelvic area measurement, and physical check for general health and appearance for each heifer. Reports are generated with all of this information, plus average daily gain to help identify any non-uniform heifers. These heifers, along with those that are not reproductively sound can be removed from the program prior to the breeding season, thus saving the producer additional expense.
Q: What will happen to my prebreeding culls and open heifers?
    A: Heartland Cattle Company will offer to buy your cull and open heifers so that they can be pooled with other heifers of similar type and offered for sale in load lots to a numerous group of local commercial feeding facilities that we have long term relationships with. For larger groups, carcass data can be collected and summarized for you upon request. For groups larger than 35 head, customers also have the opportunity to retain ownership of these heifers through the feedyard. We also have access to two local salebarns should you decide to sell your heifers on the open market.
Q: Who determines the AI service sires for my heifers?
    A: The ultimate decision is up to you, as the customer. However, our experienced staff can provide access to the latest sires and their expected progeny difference (EPD) information to help you meet your current and long-term genetic goals. We strive to help you find the total genetic package to compliment your existing herd and improve future generations. Some customers will totally rely on us to make the decision, while others have specific bulls already in mind. Whatever the case, we will tailor our recommendations and input to your specific needs.
Q: What type of synchronization program do you use at Heartland?
    A: We use the “Colorado-MGA” system. This system involves feeding MGA (an oral progesterone product) at a rate of .5 mg/hd/d for a period of 14 days. Following removal of MGA from the feed, heifers are injected with a commercial prostaglandin product 19 days later. Heifers typically respond to the injection by showing estrus within 48 to 72 hours.
Q: How are the heifers detected in heat and who does the heat detection and breeding?
    A: All heifers are detected in estrus using only visual heat detection. No additional commercial heat detection aids are used, as we feel that this adds to the customer's expense and our staff has proven year after year that they can consistently detect 99.8% or more of the 4,000 head during the breeding season. Our six-member, full-time crew has combined nearly 100 years of experience in synchronizing, heat detecting, and breeding replacement heifers. Occasionally, we will also bring in hand-selected interns from Universities throughout the United States to assist in the labor-intensive season. (See our Employment Opportunities link).
Q: How will you determine if my heifers are pregnant?
    A: All heifers will be preg tested using ultrasound technology. Each pregnancy is confirmed with a visual heartbeat and the technician confirms that the fetus appears normal in size and development. All AI breeding dates are available to the technician to confirm the exact date of conception.
Q: Why can't my heifers come home as soon as you are done breeding them?
    A: Studies have shown that more embryonic death loss occurs in the first 30 to 45 days of pregnancy that at any other point during gestation. This is a crucial stage of development and therefore, we feel very strongly that the shortest pregnancy must be at least 45 days of age prior to being exposed to any stress created in transporting the bred heifers home. For these reasons, our program is designed to preg test all heifers 45 days after the end of the breeding period for each set of cattle.

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