Calving season is well over half done for most of the Cow/Calf Producers. Although first-calvers represent your future brood cows, they require more labor, higher quality feeds, and they reward your efforts by weaning the lightest group of calves in the herd. This is temporary, because if we've done our homework with due diligence, they will reward us by being productive cows for a long time.
One of the challenges is providing a high quality diet to these females after calving. In many situations, the energy needs are not met and the first-calf female loses weight and body condition from the time of calving to the start of the breeding season.
The pounds of protein or energy needed by the first-calf female compared to a mature cow at the same stage of gestation or lactation are not all that different. However, the percent of the diet that needs to be protein or energy between these two groups of females is different.
The difference is because of the amount of feed/forage that they can eat. The mature cow can eat more feed compared to the younger female.
For this reason, beginning at least three weeks before calving, first-calvers need to be managed and fed separate from the mature cows. Research conducted at the University of Nebraska reported in the 2004 Nebraska Beef Report indicates that a first-calf-heifer within three weeks of calving experiences a 17% decrease in daily feed intake. These data further illustrate the need to separate first-calf-heifers from mature cows beginning at least three weeks before the start of the calving season and illustrate that nutrient density of the diet has to be high because intake is restricted. Intake is re-established to more "normal" levels by about one week post-calving.
A young beef female poses challenges, but she is the future of your cow herd. Don't short her after calving; especially don't skimp on the energy. She has enough challenges between calving and the beginning of the breeding season. Don't over-feed her, but give her an opportunity to be a productive part of the herd.