By Steve Boyles, Ohio State University Beef Extension specialist
Young-bred heifers and young cows that have just weaned their first calf should be fed separately from the mature cows in the herd. The young animals are smaller, still growing, and are replacing their temporary teeth. They may be pushed away from feed by cows in their prime and settle for what hay is left and is likely of lower higher quality. The results of feeding young stock with the main cowherd is thin heifers and maybe overfed cows.
Older cows that are kept for being exceptional producers (or are just special to the cattle producer) merit some special attention. Consider feeding them with the younger heifers and cows. Keep a close eye on this group because they may be missing some teeth and decline in body condition.
Grouping the herd according to fall body condition could allow for thinner cows to catch up with cows are already in adequate condition. Admittedly, wintering facilities and number of feeding areas can limit the degree of grouping of cows. Grouping cows will also allow you to ask the question, “Which cows are my easy keepers and which cows are my hard keepers?”