In this article, CAFRE’s Nigel Gould discusses weaning spring-born calves. He covers lungworm, vaccinating against pneumonia, creep grazing and supplementing with concentrates.
Preparation for weaning spring-born calves should happen well in advance. The stress of weaning can result in a growth check, and measures taken in advance can reduce the severity of this check.
These measures include reducing the cow-calf bond and ensuring the calf’s immune system is optimised by weaning.
Pneumonia can be an issue in weaned calves in autumn. The presence of lungworm or hoose can increase the severity of it.
Treating calves for lungworm at weaning can add stress, particularly where high lungworm burdens are present. Ideally, treat for lungworm two to three weeks before weaning.
Vaccination against pneumonia is effective if you adhere to the specified protocols and maintain good management.
Generally, two shots of the vaccine are required, administered three weeks apart. The first shot is required up to six weeks pre-weaning for some products to achieve maximum immunity at weaning.
Creep grazing and supplementing with concentrates
Creep grazing as soon as possible before weaning and supplementing calves with concentrates four to six weeks pre-weaning will reduce the cow-calf bond.
The increased nutrition will also help boost the calf’s natural immune response. Generally, offer between 2 and 3 kg of concentrate per calf per day, depending on calf type.
Less is required for some native-bred heifer calves, in particular, while a higher level may be justified for heavily muscled bull calves.
It is important to be mindful that the aim is to supplement the diet with quality grazed grass rather than replace it.
Last year, we also featured another article on weaning calves.
Hannah McNelis, a beef and sheep adviser at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) said:
“A slight setback in calf performance may be expected around weaning but the severity of any decline in performance can be greatly offset by good management.”
Your method of weaning calves will generally depend on your farming system and the time of year you calve the majority of your herd.
Regardless of your system, all efforts must be made to reduce stress on both mother and calf at weaning.
Find more farming tips and advice.