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Planning a low stress weaning strategy

Planning an effective and low stress weaning strategy can make a big difference to your own stress levels and the ongoing productivity of both cows and calves. That’s the message from Senior Land Services Officer, Brett Littler, from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

Brett reports there has been a rise in inquiries about weaning techniques following a very hot summer and little rainfall in recent weeks.

Brett recommends yard weaning to cattle producers even though it requires more time and effort, and may be more expensive than some other methods.

“There are substantial benefits to be gained from yard weaning and yard weaned calves are known to attract a price premium from buyers.

As adult cattle on farm, in saleyards and at abattoirs, yard weaned calves are quieter and easier to handle,” said Brett.

“The calves become accustomed to being handled and hand fed, and group socialisation can reduce stress later in life when cattle are in crowded pens or feedlot situations.”

Yard weaning involves penning the calves and hand feeding them over a period of seven to ten days, as opposed to simply moving the calves to a different paddock away from their mothers.

“Cows can become difficult to manage when calves are removed. Even quiet cows can become stubborn and aggressive. Leaving them in a paddock close to where the calves are yarded can reduce problems.

After the first few days, the cows will become accustomed to the separation and begin to walk off from the yards of their own accord.”

“Trying to move cattle to the other end of the property is probably going to cause more problems than leaving them nearby. It’s not unusual for cows to break through fences as they try to get back to their calves.”

Brett advises quality feed and sensible animal health management to get the best results when weaning. “You need to feed good quality hay or silage. Straw doesn’t provide a satisfactory ration.  An ample, clean water supply is also crucial.”

“Vaccinations should be kept up to date and fly treatments to minimise pink eye are important. It’s getting dry and dusty, particularly where cattle are yarded, and pink eye is starting to emerge as a problem.”

Regarding the age of calves at weaning, timing will depend largely on the season, however Brett advises there is no real production benefit for calves older than seven months to stay with their mothers. However, weaning calves at ages younger than six months will require higher quality feed and more intensive management to avoid health problems.

For more information on weaning strategies and feed requirements for calves, contact Brett Littler at Central Tablelands Local Land Services on 02 6378 1700.

Tips and tricks for effective yard weaning of cattle can also be found on the Meat and Livestock Australia website.

Photo caption - There are substantial benefits to be gained from yard weaning and yard weaned calves are known to attract a price premium from buyers.

Media contact:  Kylie Krause | 0439 608370