Managing a heifer to have her first calf, sustain it with adequate milk production and rebreed within 80 days is no easy task. And if the heifer is thin at calving time the task becomes an uphill battle to recover even when feeding extra energy after calving.

University of Missouri and Oklahoma State University animal scientists studied the effect of energy feed given to thin first calf heifers after calving. Feeding high-energy diets after calving reduces the negative effects of calving heifers too thin, but does not completely reverse those effects. Increasing dietary energy intake first increases net energy used for lactation. While that may be beneficial to higher weaning weights this year, greater milk yield at day 30 after calving was correlated with a longer interval between calving and return to cycling.

Consequently, economical increases in energy intake through supplementation after calving will be inefficient if the goal is to improve energy status and rebreeding performance of thin heifers. Carefully manage your winter feeding program to insure heifers go into calving with appropriate body condition.