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Abstract

While dairy farms have been increasing in size and specialization for decades, recent years have witnessed an acceleration of these trends. As a dairy farm specializes in milking cows, other enterprises are often curtailed. Management, labor, and capital constraints necessitate a movement towards outsourcing activities that were once a part of the smaller, but more diversified, dairy operation. One increasingly common example of outsourcing among dairy farmers is utilizing a custom replacement heifer grower. By outsourcing the replacement heifer enterprise, a dairy farmer may free up labor, management, feed, or facilities for use by the milking herd. As might be expected, an industry sub-sector has been created in response to the demand for custom heifer raising. However, little objective and comprehensive information is available about this sub-sector. This project was undertaken to begin to examine custom heifer growers, their management practices, operations size, and contracts. The survey results and analysis presented here may be useful for existing custom heifer growers, dairy farmers, dairy industry personnel, and others interested in the custom heifer sub-sector.

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