The foundation for high-quality beef begins long before the calf ever hits the ground. Approximately 30% of a steer’s lifetime is spent in the uterus. Marbling is often considered the feedlot’s responsibility, but research has pointed out opportunity exists at the ranch level. Marbling development links to management decisions much earlier than those final months on feed—even before the calf is born. Two key areas to manage during gestation are the cow’s nutrition and health to set her calf up for success and a profitable lifetime performance.


The cow’s diet is critical during gestation, especially during the last 90 days. This time is critical both to calf health and the cow’s ability to rebreed. Fetal programming can help ensure both the cow and calf are getting the nutrients they need.

Healthy cows make healthy calves

Sickness and nutrition during gestation can affect progeny. Cows need to be healthy, in good body condition, and be prepared to provide high-quality colostrum and an adequate milk supply. Especially in corral or dry-lot calving environments, choosing to vaccinate prior to calving can improve disease protection through colostrum. This can be a successful strategy to prevent scours in early calf life.

     A scours vaccination program should include protection against:

  • Rotavirus, coronavirus
  • K99 E. coli
  • Clostridial perfringens Type C

For every treatment a calf must be given, growth performance is reduced by a .25 lbs. per day. The rate doubles with a second treatment. Vaccinating cows prior to calving can help prevent needed treatments that deter calf performance later in life.