To breed or to feed, that is the question? In an October 2022 article, bred heifer values for 2023 were discussed. The projected value for bred heifers in Tennessee during 2023 was between $2,400 and $2,600, which is exactly the value that many of the bred heifers traded for in the spring. The question now is if a producer should retain heifers from the spring calf crop for breeding or if they should set wheels under them for feeding.
Despite bred heifer values hitting the price projection this spring for fall calving females, it is beneficial to consider the expected value for those animals moving forward. Given the expectation that calf values will hold firm, the bred heifer value could reach $3,000 to $3,200 per head this fall and moving into late winter. Thus, should a producer retain those animals and breed them, or should the producer sell the female at weaning or as a yearling? A weanling 550 pound heifer in Tennessee is currently valued near $1,265 per head while a load of 750 pound black heifers is valued near $1,770 per head (Figure 1).
The answer to this question is not simple. Here are a few considerations. First, are the heifers being retained and bred to go back in the retaining producer’s herd or are they meant for resale? If they are meant for the retaining producer’s herd then calf price projections moving forward are important. If the females are meant to be sold then a producer needs to make sure they have a marketing outlet for those females. Second, it takes feed, capital, and labor resources to retain heifers. If any of these are in short supply then critical pencil and paper work need to be done. Third, is it worth the risk to forgo the calf or feeder cattle value to breed females?
In closing, the demand for bred heifers or bred females, in general, is regional at this point. Some regions do not have the hay and forage resources to begin retaining heifers while other regions do. Producers should consider their resources and expected demand for bred females before jumping into this market.
Figure 1. Weekly Tennessee prices for 500-550 pound and 750-800 pound heifers.