Reducing Stress During Beef Calf Weaning

How to Low-Stress Wean Your Beef Calves.

Weaning beef calves is such a stressful, and honestly quite noisy, time for both the cow and the calf. There are many ways to wean calves, but which options are best for reducing stress on the calves? Based on your operation’s capabilities and programs, here are four helpful tips for low-stress weaning.

1. Consider Fence-Line Weaning

weaning 1Upon weaning, place the cows in the pasture adjacent to the calves to that they can see, hear, and smell each other, but the calves cannot nurse. This may require some modifications to fences and pastures to ensure that the cows and calves remain separated. It may be beneficial to place a cull cow or yearling with the calves to keep them from pacing the fence lines as badly. After a few days, the cows and calves will gradually move farther from the fences and not be as concerned about being weaned.

2. Use Plastic or Metal Nose Tags

weaning 2The tag, or more accurately called a nose flap, prevents calves from nursing but allows them to graze, eat from a feeder, and drink water. This reduces stress by keeping the social interaction between the cows and the calves, but breaks the ability to nurse.

3. Introduce Creep Feed Before Weaning

weaning 3If you don’t typically creep feed through the summer, it might be beneficial to introduce the feed several weeks before weaning. A calf that can “belly up” to the feeder right after being separated from the cow will be less stressed, have a greater disease resistance, and have increased growth than one that is just learning what a feeder is.

4. Work Calves Before Weaning Time

weaning 4Although weaning is a stressful time for calves, running a calf through the chute to dehorn, castrate, vaccinate, deworm, etc. at the same time can be a train wreck. Consider doing these practices 3-4 weeks before weaning.

Minimizing stress will reduce any disease problems that occur at weaning, will reduce treatment costs, and enhance your calves performance post-weaning.

Source: Sarah Breuer, P.A.S.
        Lifestyle Feed Specialist
        Country Visions Cooperative

What is a Co-op?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a cooperative as a user-owned, user-controlled business that distributes benefits on the basis of use. Member users, or patrons, own and democratically elect the board of directors, which provides oversight of the co-op. Net earnings are distributed on the basis of proportional use, or patronage, rather than on investment.

Cooperative associations have been organized throughout history to carry out many different activities, often in response to economic and social stress. Cooperative organizations in the United States first appeared in the late 1700's and today co-ops can be found in all sectors of the U.S. economy. Consumer, purchasing and farm supply cooperatives are all organized to provide the specialized goods or services that their member patrons want to buy.

By combining member demand, a co-op can provide better availability, selection, pricing, or delivery of products or services to individual consumers, businesses or farmers. Farm supply co-ops cost-effectively supply input, fuel and agronomy services to farm business owners.