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The smaller size of bred heifers or a three-year-old cow compared to mature cows means that she is less able to compete with the older cows for feed resources.
NDSU Extension

Post-Calving Nutrition Practices For Young Females

STURGIS, S.D. – Calving season has started or is quickly approaching for most producers. While the focus has been on getting the cows to calving, shifting focus to post-calving nutrition is critical. Nutrition post-calving is important, as cows are at their greatest nutrient demands to support lactation and repair the reproductive tract.

First-calvers often require more attention following calving. They require more labor and higher-quality feeds; however, by investing the time in these young cows, they often stay in the herd longer and are productive cows.

The smaller size of bred heifers or a three-year-old cow compared to mature cows means that she is less able to compete with the older cows for feed resources. Therefore, the energy needs of these young females are not met, and they lose body condition from the time of calving to breeding season, which can lead to poor reproductive performance.

This is often why it is suggested that the younger cows should be managed and fed separately from the mature cows before and after calving.

How do first-calvers differ from mature cows at the same stage of gestation or lactation?

In fact, they are not much different at all; however, the percent of the diet that needs to be protein or energy is different among both groups. To meet requirements, first-calf heifers should be supplemented or fed diets 10% to 15% more protein and energy per unit of body weight than the diets fed to mature cows.

What can you afford? Realizing that you cannot always afford to meet the cow’s nutrient requirements will help you in your nutritional plan, i.e., put body condition on your cows when their energy requirements are the lowest and let the cow use that body condition as an energy source when you cannot afford to meet her requirements. Feed costs are a major expense for any cow/calf operation. As such, knowing what type of supplement is needed, when it is needed, and how to compare supplements based on nutrient content will help you make better decisions on needed supplement purchases.

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