Weaning Time

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Cows in fieldWeaning Calves

As cow/calf farmers, one of the most stressful times is weaning. Weaning is not only stressful for the farmer, but also for the cow and calf. Preparing your farm and the cow and calf can help reduce stress. As we discuss weaning, keep in mind that it can be profitable but more importantly it ensures the next farmer of these calves will be successful too. You want them to be successful and to continue to purchase your cattle because of the quality of genetics and healthiness of the calves.

Why wean your calves?

To ensure that your calves are not stressed and are not being delivered to a new buyer with low immunity. Although you no longer own the calf, you want to make sure you sell a healthy calf that will continue to be healthy and will be a quality you would want your family to consume.

The calf is now consuming a mostly pasture diet and can move on from the cow. This allows the cow a rest period before she gives birth. This is important to ensure delivery of a healthy calf that will continue to gain and be healthy.

What you want to wean?

You should wean a 6-8 month old steer or heifer calf weighing 500-600 pounds. You want to castrate bull calves early. It is less stressful on the calf and the farmer. The calf recovers quickly and continues to gain weight. They are still with the cow and the herd which makes it less stressful. The cow should wean a calf that is half her size. If you have a 1450 pound cow that are that would be a 725 pound calf, 125 pounds more than the high average for this area. If your cattle are weaning half their size that is a great accomplishment.

The calves need to be vaccinated, dewormed, and implanted with Ralgro or Synovex 2-4 weeks prior to weaning. This ensures the vaccines are effective before their immunity begins to decrease from the stress of weaning.

When you want to wean?

The paragraph before discussed when to wean, but there are other unexpected reasons to wean such as drought, flooding, lack of forages, or the cow may be in a poor body condition. If these issues affect your farm, you may need to go ahead and wean your calves and put them on a pasture you can feed hay and supplemental feed until they are ready to go to the next farmer.

How you wean?

Start several weeks ahead of time and make sure the calves are vaccinated and dewormed. Continue to call your cattle into your weaning area to get them used to feeding in there. This will make the day a lot less stressful. Always make sure the fences are kept up to prevent cows and calves from getting back together. Keep enough hay or make sure there is enough grass in the pasture to feed and supplement with grain and minerals. Check for fresh, clean water and vaccinate with a booster 2-4 weeks afterwards. Always make sure you are quiet, patient and have the cattle familiar with you.

How the economics add up for you?

Value Added Practice Price Impact ($/cwt) $/head (525 lb Calf) Per 30 Cows
Polled/Dehorned $3.15-$5.25 $16.54-$27.56 $496-$827
Castration $5.00-$10.00 $26.25-$52.50 $788-$1,575
Lot size of 10 head $5.18-$7.00 $27.20-$36.75 $816-$1,103
Vaccination $1.44-$6.69 $7.56-$35.65 $227-$1,070
Weaned 45 days $1.67-$5.23 $8.77-$27.46 $263-$824
Implants $27 $810
Bull Selection $42 $220.50 $6,435

Written By

Micah Orfield, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionMicah OrfieldExtension Agent, Agriculture - Livestock Call Micah Email Micah N.C. Cooperative Extension, Ashe County Center
Posted on Oct 15, 2020
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