ONE OF the most important goals for a cow-calf producer is for each cow in the herd to have a calf every 12 months. Most cows have a gestation period of 280 to 290 days. Therefore, on average, the cow has 80 days to recover from calving, cycle and conceive if a 12-month calving interval is maintained.

Proper nutrition increases the likelihood of successful breeding after calving.

An important part of management involves meeting the cow's nutritional needs. Research shows that conception rate and time of conception are related to nutritional health before and after calving.

It's vital to minimize the interval to rebreeding by providing the herd with adequate nutrition so the cows will be in a moderate body condition at calving time. If a producer has cows in different production stages because of a long breeding season, it becomes impossible to effectively and properly feed the cow herd.

One group of cows will be overfed while another may be underfed. Underfeeding lowers conception rates and delays conception. Overfeeding creates fat cows and reduces productivity. Both conditions are costly to the producer.

The effect of body condition at calving on subsequent reproductive performance is clear. The percentage of cows that had been in heat within 60 or 90 days after calving is lower for cows in a thin body condition compared to cows in a more moderate body condition. If you can see a cow's ribs, she's in thin body condition.

Most of the time, cows will lose weight following calving. It's desirable for cows to calve with some body reserves or extra condition so that rebreeding rates are not adversely affected. The probability of cows rebreeding is reduced greatly if they continue to lose weight throughout the early postpartum period.

One of the most difficult times of the year for maintaining a cow's proper nutrition is the late winter and early spring period. During this period, air temperatures begin to warm and some cool-season weeds or grasses begin to grow. The problem with the cool-season grass at this time is the quality is very high but the quantity is very low. In addition, hay supplies become short, and producers are feeding the tail end of the hay supply. Cows may have already calved or are about to calve; therefore, the cow's nutrient requirements are increased.

It's not unusual to see cows in poor body condition with cow pies stacked high, which means a low-quality, high-fiber hay supply. The weather may be warm during the day, but often the nighttime temperatures are cool.