Cow Nutrition Requirements: Calving to Breeding

Thanks to South Dakota State Extension for this article! Nutritional management of the cow herd is more important during the periods of late pregnancy and early lactation than any other time in the annual production cycle. “Nutrition has a huge impact on the performance of both the cow and the newborn calf,” said Ken Olson, Professor & SDSU Extension Beef Specialist. “Nutrition for the cow is important during this period because of its effect on subsequent reproductive performance.” Olson explained that the nutritional status of the cow at the time she calves until initiation of the breeding season will determine if and when she returns to estrus (cycles). It will also determine her level of fertility. “Basically, nutrition plays a large role in determining whether or not the cow will become pregnant,” he said. “Money invested in improving cow nutritional status now will pay for itself in terms of improved cow pregnancy rates and calf weaning weights this coming fall.” To make the situation more complex, Olson said a cow’s nutrient requirements increase throughout the periods of late-pregnancy through early lactation. Late Pregnancy Nutritional Requirements “During late pregnancy, the fetus grows exponentially in the cow’s uterus, causing a directly proportional increase in nutrient requirements,” Olson said. He explained that 70 percent of fetal growth occurs in the last three months of pregnancy. At the same time, the grow

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