The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources says reducing stress during weaning can greatly contribute to a calf’s future success. Key components of a healthy weaning scenario for any calf include:
1. The appropriate labor and equipment. The first step any producer should take is to ensure the right labor and equipment is available to them. Whether that’s the right person assisting or even as simple as the right mower to cut back tall weeds that could be eye irritants for the calf.
2. Water availability. Helping calves transition from drinking from a pond or creek to a new water setup in a pen needs supervision. Removing water covers and ensuring the calf can see and smell the water is critical.
3. Preconditioning with 45-day postweaning period. This has been a common industry practice for some time and can improve animal health, feedlot performance and carcass quality, according to the Beef Quality Assurance Program.
4. The right separation. Fence-line weaning over abruptly removing the calves could help a calf better change its diet. Other producers swear by the two-step process where a plastic nose piece is used on the calf’s nose to discourage nursing.
5. Post-weaning nutrition. Replacing highly nutritious milk with forage needs equality high-quality grain and feed to supplement the calf.
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