An economic analysis of the costs associated with pre-weaning management strategies for dairy heifers

Anna Hawkins, Kenneth Burdine, Donna Amaral-Phillips, Joao H.C. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Dairy calves are raised in various housing and feeding environments on dairy farms around North America. The objective of this study was to develop a simulation model to calculate the cost of raising replacement dairy heifers using different inputs that reflect different management decisions and evaluate their influence on the total cost. In this simulation, 84 calves were modeled between 0–2 months of age to reflect a 1000 heifer herd. The decisions associated with housing, liquid diet source and allowance, labor utilization, and health were calculated. Costs and biological responses were reflective of published surveys, literature, and market conditions. A 10,000-iteration economic simulation was used for each management scenario using @Risk and PrecisionTree add-ons (Palisade Corporation, Ithaca, NY, USA) to account for variation in pre-weaning mortality rate, weaning age, and disease prevalence. As milk allotment increased, total feed cost increased. Feeding calves a higher allowance of milk resulted in a lower cost per kg of gain. Average feed cost percentage of the total cost was 46% (min, max: 33%, 59%) while labor, and fixed and variable cost represented 33% (20%, 45%), 9% (2%, 12%), and 12% (10%, 14%), respectively. Total pre-weaning costs ranged from $258.56 to $582.98 per calf across all management scenarios and milk allotments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number471
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • ADG
  • Calf economics
  • Cost per kg
  • Replacement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Veterinary (all)


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