Weaning can be tough, but with the right techniques and strategies, you can reduce stress on your herd and keep them healthy. Our team of expert ruminant nutritionists at Ralco is here to help. From managing dust to introducing creep feed, we have all the answers you need for successful weaning.
1. Fence-line weaning
One weaning strategy that’s gaining popularity is fence-line weaning. This approach allows the cows and calves to remain in close proximity to each other, reducing the stress and anxiety that come with sudden separation. By giving the calves time to adjust to their new environment and diet while still being comforted by the presence of their mothers, you can create a smoother and more successful weaning transition.
2. Lower dust levels
Dust can be a major source of stress for calves, leading to respiratory issues and overall discomfort. By keeping dust levels low, you can help your calves breathe easier and feel more comfortable in their new surroundings. Some tips for reducing dust include using high-quality bedding materials, regularly cleaning pens and feeding areas and keeping the environment as dry as possible. Reduce dust in your feed and pen with a simple solution: water! Spray water around the pens to wet the dirt and keep the dust down, and add it directly to the mixer wagon to minimize dust in the ration.
3. Creep feed
Starting your calves on creep feed 30-45 days before weaning can help ease their transition to their new diet and environment. This approach not only helps ensure they receive important nutrients and minerals, but it also gets them used to eating feed before weaning. This can help reduce the stress of suddenly changing their diet and keep them comfortable in their new surroundings. Most animals are inherently cautious of new things so having the calves already used to the feed and feeder will help maintain feed consumption and ease the transition to a bunk ration if that’s the goal.
4. Weather considerations
When planning your weaning process, it’s important to consider the weather and environment that your calves will be exposed to. Extreme hot or cold weather can be especially stressful for young calves, so it’s important to provide them with plenty of cool, fresh water and shade. Electrolyte supplements can also be helpful during hot weather to keep the calves hydrated and happy.
5. Monitor and adjust your weaning strategy
Each calf crop is unique, and conditions may change day by day. Pay attention to your calves, monitor their health and adjust your strategy as needed. Sometimes, your strategy may not work for some calves. If you notice signs of extreme stress or illness, always consult with a veterinarian as some sort of mass medication may be warranted.
Overall, weaning can be a stressful time for your calves, but it doesn’t have to be. By adopting low-stress handling techniques, offering a familiar diet, starting them on creep feed, considering the weather and monitoring your weaning strategy you can minimize stress on your calves and set them up for a healthy future.
Keep Weaned Calves Healthy With Ralco
At Ralco, we know that calves can experience a decline in rumen function and immunity during weaning, hindering their growth and performance. That’s why we created Fight Strong® Pellet, a specially formulated feed additive that contains all the essential nutrients to strengthen calves’ immune systems, maintain appetite, and enhance their overall performance as they transition to the next stage.