Greg Bowman

This week, I would like to stay with an animal science theme and give a brief promotion for the Georgia HERD program. The bull test program is approaching 50 years of performance bull evaluation in Georgia while our Georgia HERD program is more than 15 years old. HERD stands for heifer evaluation and reproductive development. The program is a cattle producer consignment test where heifers are delivered to the UGA farm in Floyd County each fall with the program concluding in May.

During the process, heifers are developed and evaluated on numerous reproductive traits with a goal of a confirmed bred heifer in the spring. A producer has the option of taking his heifer consignments back home or having them sold in our annual sale. Today, I will be giving more details on this established program in Georgia.

First, this is a collaborative effort. The program is sponsored by the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association, UGA Extension, UGA Animal and Dairy Science Department and the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. County agents are active participants by being members of the HERD team and working hands on at work days at the Floyd County farm. In Georgia, we have two heifer development programs.

The one in our area is the Calhoun HERD program and is for heifers born from December to February, while the heifers for the Tifton HERD evaluation are born from September to November. To clear up any confusion on heifer age, to be eligible for the next Calhoun HERD program, a heifer must have been born from December 1, 2016 to February 28, 2017.

Heifers that are officially consigned will be dropped off at the farm on the last day of November. A complete calendar of events for our local HERD program can be found by going to the UGA Beef Programs site. You can also find an entry form. You can also visit with me or with our North Georgia Beef Specialist, Jason Duggin. Jason is housed at the Gordon County Agricultural Service Center.

Why should a cattle producer consider entering heifers to the HERD program? First, it is a great way to gather data on heifers you are raising in an evaluation process. You can take the data and compare it to heifers that other cattle producers are raising. Second, instead of you taking the time to raise your own heifers on your farm, you can let someone else handle that for you for approximately six months. The fee you will be charged for this service can be cheaper than you can do it on your own farm. Note, we will be using the UGA Vet School to come and do reproductive soundness evaluation and for ultrasound pregnancy confirmation. The heifers will be given the chance to conceive breed artificially to a nationally known calving ease Angus sire and then a chance to breed naturally to calving ease bulls. A third reason is due to the opportunity to market your bred heifers through our annual sale which will on May 30, 2018 at the Northwest Georgia Livestock Pavilion here in Calhoun.

How do you enter cattle for the HERD program? There is a fee for the program. There is a $50 per head consignment fee plus your cost for feed, hay, vaccination programs and sale fees which is normally in the $400 range per heifer. Last year, our sale average was more than $2000 per heifer. You can enter registered and also commercial heifers in this evaluation. Please note that program eligible heifers must be homegrown females and meet the age eligibility for that program site. At delivery, heifers must weigh a minimum of 1.75 pounds per day of age. There is a vaccination program suggested prior to delivery and heifers need to have permanent identification such as a tattoo or brand upon delivery.

Please note that unruly heifers may be excused from the program since disposition is part of our evaluation process. To continue in the program heifers must pass the breeding soundness exam in January plus must be confirmed as bred to be sale eligible. The entry deadline for the Calhoun HERD program for 2017-2018 cycle is November 1, 2017. We have space for approximately 170 heifers at the farm.

Finally, we have many cattle producers that have taken advantage of this program for years, but we may have potential new consigners in the area. You can contact Jason Duggin or myself and we will be happy to answer all questions and even conduct a site visit to look at heifers. For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County or email gbowman@uga.edu.