Ethanol Blog

Use Distillers Grains to Supplement Rations for First-Calf Females

By Cheryl Anderson , DTN Staff Reporter

First-calf females often take more time and higher quality feed in order to become a productive future brood cow, according to an article by Paul C. Hay, University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension educator (…).

Especially vital in such a high-quality diet is the protein and energy needed by a first-calf female to prevent loss of weight and body condition between calving and breeding season. Such heifers should be managed carefully and fed separate from mature cows, as the younger cattle need more protein. Also important to note is the approximate 17% decrease in daily feed intake from first-calf heifers three weeks before calving, necessitating a higher nutrient density of the ration.

According to Hay, first-calf females post-calving need a diet with at least 62% total digestible nutrients (TDN) and 10-11% crude protein. Neither prairie hay, bromegrass hay or early-bloom alfalfa will meet the first-calf female's energy needs, and some will not meet their protein needs. Such forages need to be supplemented.

Corn, distillers grains, gluten feed and silage are all good choices to supplement protein requirements.

For cows on pasture, the supplement may need to be fed on the ground instead of in bunks. Although there is typically less waste when supplementing with an energy cube/cake or whole shell corn, UN-L researchers saw little waste on the ground when supplementing with wet distillers grains.

Cheryl Anderson can be reached at



To comment, please Log In or Join our Community .