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Planning for Success-Weaning Time

Mark Werner, Livestock Production Specialist
mjwerner@allamericancoop.com (507) 990-8235

Weaning, and the timeline revolving around it, is the most stressful time in a calf’s life.  Having a well thought out plan in place can set those claves up for a lifetime of success, and cattle never get over a great start!

Having a proper facility to wean your cattle into is a foundation of the program.  If the environment isn’t right, no matter what you feed or vaccinate with will make a difference.  Factors to consider include: fencing condition and type, to keep the calf from escaping back to momma, pen moisture, bedding, feed type and delivery, ample bunk and water access as well as air flow (quality) etc.

According to Phillip Lancaster, referencing an article from the August edition of the Progressive Cattleman; “Everything needs to be in place before calves are weaned,” Lancaster says. “Decide how you are going to wean – total separation, fence line, or the two-stage method. … Think through the advantages and disadvantages of each method well in advance to decide which will work best for you.”

Health is the next aspect of your plan to consider. Preparing your calves with the proper vaccines for your area that are recommend by your consulting veterinarian and or possibly by the buyer of the cattle (if you have a repeat or agreed upon buyer that would like additional vaccines) will help prepare their immune system for any unforeseen health challenges that may lie ahead.  “Sick calves cost money,” Lancaster says. “Vaccinating calves several weeks prior to weaning will improve immune response and reduce morbidity in weaned calves. A good animal health program is worth the cost.”

Nutrition and keeping a calf eating is a huge key to success, but only if all the other parts of the puzzle are already in place.  Keep in mind, we are taking these calves away from mom, the place they are used to living and the food they are used to consuming.  We need to replace mom’s milk, grass, minerals and any other feedstuffs they may have been getting. Calves larger than 400 pounds should have a functioning rumen, but it has limited capacity.  We need to keep in mind the moisture of our weaning and receiving diets and deliver nutrient dense feed that allows those calves to receive the nutrition they need to succeed without making them feel like a blood filled tick!  Referencing the same article as above, Forcherio says, “The end goal is to drive intake and get calves eating the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Anything you can do to set calves up to eat at target intake levels will help them have a higher chance of success.”

Purina’s Stress Care products have been a great tool to utilize in weaning and receiving programs.  These nutrient dense feeds come in different feeding rates to meet each operations feed inventories and delivery options.  The Stress Care Tubs have been a great option to create an area in the pen that calves will congregate to lick at.  Just the fact that the claves are licking the tub is a benefit. When a calf licks the Stress Care Tubs, they salivate, which helps buffer the rumen and aid in maintaining a healthy rumen pH.  Salivating is also tied to wanting to eat and feeling hunger which tells the calves brain to look for feed and helps drive them to the bunk.  Even calves that are not at the bunk are getting a benefit from licking the tub because they are receiving the essential vitamins, chelated trace minerals and yeast products that help drive animal health.

For the full article which was referenced, please refer to https://www.progressivecattle.com/topics/feed-nutrition/creating-a-successful-weaning-program

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