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Weaning Fall-born Calves

Don’t forget to plan for water needs of both cows and calves.

Many cow-calf operations with fall-born calves will wean the calves in mid- to late June. Weaning during very hot summer weather is stressful enough to the calves. Therefore any management strategy that can reduce stress to the calves should be utilized. Fenceline weaning is one such strategy.

California researchers weaned calves with only a fence separating them from their dams. These were compared to calves weaned totally separate from their dams. Calf behaviors were monitored for five days following weaning.

Fenceline calves and cows spent approximately 60% and 40% of their time, respectively, within 10 feet of the fence during the first two days. During the first three days, fenceline calves bawled and walked less, and ate and rested more, but these differences disappeared by the fourth day.

All calves were managed together starting seven days after weaning. After two weeks, fenceline calves had gained 23 pounds (lb.) more than separated calves. This difference persisted. After 10 weeks, fenceline calves had gained 110 lb. (1.57 lb. per day), compared to 84 lb. (1.20 lb. per day) for separated calves.

There was no report of any differences in sickness, but calves that eat more during the first days after weaning should stay healthier. A follow-up study demonstrated similar advantages of fenceline contact when calves were weaned under drylot conditions and their dams had access to pasture. To wean and background, even for short periods, fenceline weaning should be considered.

During the hot summer days, having adequate water available for the cattle is a must. Experienced ranchers that utilize fenceline weaning have found having plenty of water in the region where the cattle are congregated can be a challenge. Plan ahead before you begin the weaning process to be certain sufficient water can be supplied to both sides of the fence.

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Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with permission from the June 4 Cow-Calf Corner, a newsletter published by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, for which Glenn Selk is an emeritus extension animal scientist. Research was shared from Price and co-workers. Abstracts 2002 Western Section of American Society of Animal Science.







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