Beef producers expect a lot from first calf heifers. They must feed a new calf, return to estrus and conceive all while still growing to reach maturity. While not surprising that re-breeding of first calf heifers tends to be lower, those open females can be a major expense.

Jim and Ellie Krise, operate the 4K Ranch near Terry, Mont., and manage 220 cow-calf pairs and develop at least 20 replacement heifers each year. Even though they buy their replacement heifers, conception rates on the first-calf cows are often lower than mature cows. Rather than culling these young open cows through the sale barn and taking salvage value for them, the 4K Ranch now markets them as grass fed organic beef.

Young cows that lose their calves are fattened on grass and sold online via the ranch's Web site or at the farmer's market in Miles City, Mont. By promoting the health aspects of grass-fed beef, Mr. and Mrs. Krise hope to develop a market with health conscious restaurants in some larger cities.