Almost a fifth of milking heifers are failing to reach their second lactation, according to a recent AHDB study.
The evaluation carried out through Reading University found that 17% of milking heifers exit the herd before calving down for a second time.
Poor cow health and fertility contributed to the figures, however the reasons varied from farm to farm.
Responding to the study, Dr Jenny Gibbons, AHDB senior animal health scientist, said the results were 'worrying'.
"At a time when dairy farms are under increasing cost pressures, it’s worrying that so many first lactation heifers are exiting the herd before their rearing costs are recouped.”
Decisions around fertility, feed, health, housing and grouping are known to have a big impact on a heifer’s longevity with the herd.
They eat more slowly, ruminate less, are lower in the pecking order, can be easily chased away from feed space or lying areas so need time to adjust to life in the milking herd.
In-calf heifers also require extra care since the soft tissues of the sole inside the hoof are thinnest in younger animals, as well as at calving, thus increasing the risk of sole bruising and ulcers.
Dr Gibbons said: “Improving rearing management on farm not only offers a huge opportunity to increase a heifer’s herd longevity, but also reduce costs, help the environmental impact and influence consumer perception of dairy farms.”
A series of meetings across the country will be held by the AHDB during March and May.
The events, which are free to attend, are designed to help dairy farmers achieve a successful 2nd calving.