What you do during and post-calving with a first-calf beef heifer can make all the difference for her future performance and fertility, according to KC Olson, MS, PhD, Kansas State University. “The top priority is to keep the calf alive and to prepare the heifer for subsequent breeding and calving,” Olson says.

Olson suggests keeping these factors in mind for the first-calf heifer:

  • Mismanagement immediately prior to and after first calving is the major cause of replacment heifer attrition.

    Nutrient requirements increase dramatically with lactation; they effectively double for females producing >20 lbs of milk.

  • Pasture-maintained heifers should complete the breeding season and wean a spring-born calf with little nutritional input.

    Significant amounts of body condition will almost certainly be lost prior to weaning, one or two body condition score units. One body condition score is worth about 80 lbs of bodyweight in a heifer. 

  • The greatest obstacle is to re-establish adequate body condition between weaning and second calving/third breeding.
  • Once appropriate body condition score has be re-established, heifers should continue to gain an average of 0.5 to 0.7 lbs per day until their third breeding to bring them to their mature weight.

This information was presented at the Kansas State University 2009 Conference on Reproduction, Calving and Calf Care in Cow-Calf Herds.