Fenceline – time to plan weaning
Oh, my goodness, where has the time gone? In just a few weeks, we will be considering weaning the calves. It’s best to start planning for that now.
Having a good herd health program plan can help to reduce sickness at weaning, improve the treatment response of those calves that do get sick and increase the overall performance of calves during weaning. Work with your veterinarian to plan vaccination strategies and treatment protocols.
Strategic mineral supplementation when the calves are with their dams prior to weaning may be beneficial for getting good immune response. Minerals such as copper, zinc, cobalt and manganese are important to immune system function. A lack of these minerals in feed sources or high levels of other minerals such as sulfur, which can inhibit absorption of minerals, can impact immune response.
Introducing new feeds to calves while they are with their dams prior to weaning can help calves start on feed more quickly when they are weaned. Feedstuffs should be palatable with minimal fines and dust. Feeds should be evaluated to determine if they have adequate levels of protein and energy to meet desired performance goals.
Fence-line weaning calves or placing nose weaners into calves four to seven days before removal from their dams are a couple of methods to accomplish this. Both of these methods prevent the calves from nursing while still giving the calf social contact with its dam. This gradual process appears to help the calves forget about nursing and begin the transition to being on their own and part of a new herd.
Ideally, fenceline weaning should be in an environment that allows both cows and calves to spread out along the fence, has minimal dust present, and provides feed and water resources for the calves that are familiar and close to the fence.
A number of studies have shown calves that were fenceline weaned have lower incidents of sickness compared to their contemporaries that were hard weaned and immediately separated from visual and audio contact with their dams. Some studies have shown a significant increase in average daily gain and total weight gain for calves that were fenceline weaned when compared to their hard weaned contemporaries.