As producers prepare to wean their spring-born calves, University of Nebraska animal scientist Rick Rasby, PhD, stresses the value of low-stress weaning methods, particularly fenceline weaning.
Calves enrolled in many value-added programs, he notes, must be weaned at least 45 days prior to sale date. During those 45 days the calves must grow and gain efficiently, and they benefit from a weaning process that minimizes stress and helps them begin to gain immediately. Rasby cites a California study in which researchers compared performance of calves weaned across a fence from their dams with that of calves totally separated from their dams.
During the first two days following weaning, the fenceline calves and cows spent approximately 60 percent and 40 percent of their time, respectively, within 10 feet of the fence. Over the first three days, fenceline calves bawled and walked less, and ate more and rested more.
The researchers managed all the calves together starting seven days after weaning. After two weeks, fenceline calves had gained 23 pounds more than separated calves. After 10 weeks, fenceline calves had gained 110 pounds, or 1.57 pounds per day, compared to 84 pounds, or 1.20 pounds per day for conventionally weaned calves.
Rasby reminds producers that fenceline weaning requires good, well-maintained fences and adequate water supplies for both sides of the fence.