This week, I will put on my animal science hat and promote the Georgia HERD Program. This state program is a collaborative effort between many groups such as UGA Extension/College of Ag and Environmental Sciences, UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, Georgia Cattlemen’s Association plus numerous other supporters.

The program is a heifer development program where cattle producers can consign heifers that meet age and other requirements in either the effort in Irwinville at the Tifton Evaluation Center or locally at the UGA farm in Floyd County. The local program has always been called the Calhoun HERD program because the annual live auction is in Calhoun even though the heifers are housed from December to the end of the evaluation in Floyd County.

Today, I will give you program information. Please note for producers interested in entering heifers for the Calhoun HERD program for the 2020-2021 period, the Nov. 1 entry deadline is quickly approaching. I know many readers have either consigned heifers to the program, attended a sale or at least heard of this long-standing bovine evaluation program.

For starters, HERD stands for heifer evaluation and reproductive development. Why is the program important? If you are in the cow/calf business, a producer will need quality replacement heifers to keep the cowherd youthful and productive. The Georgia HERD programs at both sites provides a method of evaluating heifers for performance, reproductive traits and disposition. I will add that it gives a consigner an opportunity to compare the heifers they are producing on their farm to other consigners in the same scenario.

Probably more importantly, a consigner will obtain educational data on his replacement heifers such as pelvic measurements, reproductive tract scores, disposition scores, hip heights and average daily gains that may be hard to do on their own farm. The Calhoun HERD program will conclude with the annual sale, but farmers are not required to sell their consigners heifers. Some producers will take consignments back home to go back into their herds. There are others that may take a few back home while selling a few heifers. Others may sell every heifer they consign. The last sale averaged $1,476 per head.

Due to COVID, the sale was an online event, but the hope is to be back to the live auction in 2021. I will remind you that only confirmed bred heifers are eligible for the sale. I will also add that the heifers consigned can be registered or commercial heifers, but they must be home-grown heifers that are open, which means non-bred heifers at the time of delivery to the UGA farm. In addition, the heifers for the Calhoun HERD program must be females born from Dec. 1, 2019, to Feb. 29, 2020. The sale that will conclude the upcoming evaluation period is set for June 2, 2021. This will be the 21st annual Calhoun HERD program so the program has been around for over two decades.

How do I obtain more information? I would visit the website at ugabeef.com/herd to read over the copy of the letter for the 2020-2021 program plus detailed rules, the calendar and information on premises registration and animal traceability rules. The rules and regulations forms will not only go over pre-delivery health requirements, but will have the application form that must be received by Nov. 1, plus your $50 per head nomination fee. The estimated cost per heifer will be announced before delivery date and final fees are due at delivery. This cost does not include sale expenses.

Once the heifers are delivered in Calhoun, the farm crew along with a team of North Georgia UGA county agents under the direction of UGA Beef Specialist Jason Duggin will take over. There will be nine work days before the sale where heifers are given proper vaccination boosters, weighed, scored for disposition, measured for hip heights, checked for breeding soundness, given quality scored and confirmed for pregnancy prior to the sale. The heifers are fed to gain 1.50-1.75 pounds per day.

Also, during the evaluation, the heifers are given the chance to be bred artificially to the nationally known calving ease sires Connealy Comrade 1385 or GAR Prophet. Then, heifers are exposed to calving ease Angus sires for natural service. Again, heifers have to be confirmed bred by ultrasound the week prior to sale date in order to be sale eligible. Also, heifers must meet minimum reproductive soundness standards to be sale eligible too.

Heifers that arrive at delivery too light in weight may not be accepted. That is covered in the rules and regulations found on the website also to help producers hit a delivery weight.

You may have read this article and think this is a lot of technical information. Well, cattle production is big business. In Gordon County alone, we estimate there are 10,000 beef cows. Developing quality replacement heifers is one of the keys is keeping a beef herd productive. The annual sale is a way for a farmer to market their heifers too plus give a way for others to purchase heifers to add to their farm also.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at gbowman@uga.edu.

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