Is it time to consider early weaning?

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One way to reduce the nutritional needs of a brood cow is to wean her calf. Dr. Tom Turner, OSU Department of Animal Sciences Emeritus, suggests the following considerations regarding weaning management.

* Beef cow lactation peaks at about six weeks post calving and continues to decline.

* July and August pasture growth and moisture are generally limited.

* The number of cows most beef producers keep is a function of how many can be carried in July and August.

* Dry cows consume significantly less feed than lactating cows. Some studies would suggest as much as fifty percent less, or the difference between 4% of their body weight on a dry matter basis during lactation versus only 2% when dry.

* The combination of reduced milk production, decreased pasture and increased calf size may (and probably does) result in calves not receiving adequate energy to maximize growth during this most efficient growth period of their life.

* Calves nursing cows are not efficient in converting creep feed to gain. Most studies would show that it takes 8-10 pounds of creep feed to make one pound of gain.

* Early weaned calves will convert feed to gain at about a 3.5 to 1 ratio.

* Early weaned calves will weigh about 100 pounds more at normal weaning time than calves left on the cow.

* Calves can be successfully and relatively easily weaned from 70 to 120 days of age and started on a grain diet.

* Calves averaging 100 days of age and 300 pounds take up very little barn or shed space.

* If retaining ownership, calves will reach harvest weight earlier and have a higher quality grade.

* Dry cows that have had their calves weaned early will enter the winter in better body condition.

* Calves born in February, March and early April can be weaned on or about July 1 - the typical start of dry, hot weather in most parts of the country.

In summary, early weaning can increase calf weight significantly and decrease cow input. Therefore one could carry more cows on the same land and wean heavier calves with a smaller amount of feed to the calves.


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Coy Moore    
Florida  |  July, 21, 2011 at 04:23 PM

I totally agree with early weaning and its effect on reproduction in the Cow and more efficient utilization of feed. This is even more pronounced in tropical climates where the breeds tend to be of Zebu origin. I have observed howerver, that early weaned cows (90 days) may suffer udder damage from milk accumalation before they start to dry up.


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