Calf weaning tips | Living the Country Life

Calf weaning tips

Weaning is stressful on calves. But they'll adapt quickly to their change in diet and environment with a plan and good preparation.

Radio interview source: Dr. Rick Rasby, Beef Cattle Specialist, University of Nebraska

It's heart-breaking to hear young calves cry for their mothers at weaning time. It's a stressful period for them, but a sound weaning program to ease the transition will benefit their overall health.
Rick Rasby is a beef cattle specialist at the University of Nebraska. He says data shows that as stress is reduced at weaning time, calf illness and mortality decreases. He recommends working with your veterinarian.
"Make sure that you have the vaccination program that's suited for your goals and objectives and for your particular area," he says. "And then the other thing would be is that depending on the type of weaning management that you're going to do, make sure that you have the facilities to get that kind of thing accomplished."
The traditional method is to separate the cows and the calves by putting the calves into a dry lot, and the cows into an adjacent pasture. Rasby says it's important that you feed the calves a highly-palatable and nutritious diet. They need the right level of energy and nutrients to replace the milk they're used to in order to continue gaining weight.
Another weaning method that's becoming more popular is fence line weaning, where calves stay in the original pasture, cows are moved to an adjacent pasture, and the cows and calves are separated by an electric fence. 
"In this situation, you have enough fence line that they can pair up across the electric fence if you will, and boy the data says that morbidity and mortality and the number that you treat for sickness in a fence line weaning situation is really minimal," says Rasby. "A lot of stress removed in that situation. When you take pictures of it, what we find is the cows stay longer at the fence line than do the calves!"
Rasby says there is no typical time frame as to how long it takes to wean calves, but the quicker you get them to eat on their own, the less stress there will be.

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