Newford Farm aims to reduce stress during the weaning process on both cows and calves.
In this video, Iarlaith Collins, farm manager on the Newford Suckler demonstration farm gives an insight into its weaning strategy.
Weaning was carried out on the farm in three stages, with the first batch weaned on September 7th, the second on September 14th and September 21st.
Overall, the average weaning date of the 96 weanlings was September 12th.
Weaning was divided into three stages as:
- Cattle had to return to the home farm from outblocks;
- Smaller groups could result in best use being made of sheds on the home farm.
All male progeny were castrated in early July at less than six months of age. Castration was performed two months in advance of weaning to minimise stress on animal at weaning, as well as complying with animal health and welfare regulations.
Meal feeding commenced on August 4th, with calves also allowed to creep graze ahead of cows, helping to break the cow-calf bond.
Early adaption to meal feeding helps weanlings to settle faster once housed.
Calves were treated to control worms and received an IBR booster vaccination before weaning.
On the day of weaning, both cows and calves were weighed, and cows were condition-scored. Once weighing was completed, the Newford Farm weaning procedure, which has been tried and tested for many years, commenced.
Weanlings were housed in adjacent pens to their dams and field gates were temporarily tied to dividing gates so calves could access to cows to suckle.
They could see and smell their mothers, which in turn, helps to reduce stress. While housed, they could access silage and concentrates, while cows were fed straw only to help reduce milk yield.
After a separation period of 36 hours, they were joined back with their mother for a final suck before they were moved to a straw-bedded shed, where they received silage and concentrates.
Weanlings were split into smaller groups to avoid any health issues due to shed ventilation in clammy weather.
Weanlings returned to grass within a week of weaning to avoid any health issues and to maximise the number of days at grass. They are offered the best-quality grass, along with 2kgs of concentrates.
During the dry-off period, cows were offered straw and minerals for three days before moving onto silage on day four post-weaning.
Slates were scraped and limed daily to reduce the incidence of mastitis.
The average weaning weight of male weanlings was 314kgs, with an ADG of 1.39kg from birth, as they ranged from 228-377kgs.
The average weaning weight of heifer weanlings was 305kgs, giving them an ADG of 1.31kgs from birth, as they ranged from 224kg-372.
The average weight of cows at weaning with 575kgs with a body condition score of 2.5.
Mature suckler cows achieved an average weaning percentage of 55% of their bodyweight. First, second and third-calvers achieved an average weaning percentage of 61% of their bodyweight.
“These figures have increased this year through better selection of replacement heifers and good management.”
“Weaning in September allows for an extra months’ grazing at the back end of the season. Cows can be tightened up after weaning and housed if necessary, leaving weaning at grass.”
“The good September weather allowed Iarlaith to turn cows back out to grass to clean out paddocks before closing.”
Weather-dependent, it is hoped that weanlings will be kept at grass until November 10th.