When planning your cowherd nutrition program, keep in mind which biological functions take priority for the nutrients a cow receives. Cows must receive adequate nutrition in order to calve and breed back once every 365 days. Before a beef female will reproduce, however, the requirements of her other biological functions must first be met.

Where nutrients are used first:

1. Maintenance This entails all the energy necessary for breathing, digestion, walking, maintaining body temperature, and other body functions.

2. Growth Once maintenance needs are met, energy goes to growth. A young female is still growing after her first and even second calf, so she will require more energy compared to a female that has reached mature size.

3. Milk production After growth, nutrients and energy are then used for milk production. If all the female's energy goes into maintenance and growth, then she will not produce enough milk for her calf.

4. Reproduction Only after the requirements of all other functions have been met will a female's reproductive system develop and function.

Failing to recognize the extra nutritional needs of young cows is one reason that most of the open cows reported by producers are two and three years old.