Mature cows grazing adequate summer forage are able to maintain body condition despite the pressure of nursing a rapidly growing calf. But due to the fact that they are still growing themselves, two-year-old cows and even three-year-old cows often finish the summer in less than desirable body condition.

Although the next breeding season is months away, the cow must endure winter weather, fetal development, calving and lactation before then. If young cows begin the process in poor body condition, getting caught up is expensive.

By weaning calves from those marginal, young cows at an earlier date, there will be more time before winter for that young cow to recover valuable body condition without the nutrient drain of lactation.

Researchers at South Dakota State University have examined the effect of weaning date on the body condition and rebreeding performance of a commercial cowherd. Weaning calves 40 days earlier enabled cows to gain one-half of a body-condition score by December than the later weaning cows. A higher percentage of the early-weaned cows were cycling at the start of the following breeding season and conceived earlier.