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Early weaning calves

Central Tablelands LLS Livestock Officer, Brett Littler

Early weaning is taking calves from the cows between 3 and 6 months of age. There is little advantage in leaving the calves on the cow after 7 months of age.

We would only recommend leaving calves on the cows if you were supplying the vealer market after that age.

Why early wean?

There are a number of reasons to early wean.

First and foremost is to manage the fat/condition of your cows. By weaning the calves off the cows, their requirements for maintenance almost halves and the quality of the feed that they require to do this is substantially reduced.

By maintaining the condition of your cows you help future calving patterns to be shorter and more condensed with more calves born early in your calving pattern.

One of the most inefficient ways to feed a calf is through a cow. A lactating cow (about 500kg) will require about 13kg of hay/head/day.

Once you wean the calf off the cow and feed them separately the amount required to feed drops substantially (7kg hay for the 500kg cow and 3.5kg of hay for a 200kg weaner.)

You will also find that that the stock will improve and do better than feeding them together.

If you do early wean calves

If you are going to wean early there are a few little tips to follow.

Firstly, draft the weaners into weight lots. Make sure that you have no more than 100 calves in the mob. After weaning the calves make sure you spend enough time in the first week to watch them and draft off any shy feeders or calves that are appearing to be a little sick or dull.

Put these calves in a TLC pen and feed them good quality lucerne hay. Make sure the area that you pick is accessible in all weather as I have seen some bad spots picked that have caused problems for access after rain/storms.

Some health things

Marking

If you have not marked the calves then don't mark them if you are going to early wean them within 2 weeks (longer if you use rings). Give them a few weeks to get over the weaning process and to being fed, then start to plan marking.

Pink eye

Pink eye can be an issue in early weaned calves. It is suggested to control flies and one way to do that is with a back line treatment. It is important that you apply right up onto the poll of the calf.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations need to be done. At the very least a 5in1 needs to be done and other times if the calves have had no green feed.

A vitamin AD&E vaccination and sometimes a B12 is also recommended.

Drenching

Drenching of your calves is essential just like a 5in1.

Feeding

Feeding early weaned calves can be as easy or as hard as you like.

There are a number of calf pellets on the market but the best results have been seen have been simple things. Some of these things have been cracked lupins and hay, oats plus a protein meal (70:30 mix) and hay or a protein meal and hay.

For more information please contact Brett Littler on 63781708.