Early weaning of beef calves is a management tool that can be used when producers are faced with limited or low-quality pasture. It also can be implemented to enhance the rebreeding of first-calf heifers.
Advantages of early weaning:
- It helps ensure a calf from each cow every 12 months.
- Dams of early-weaned calves should cycle earlier.
- Calves can grow to their genetic potential regardless of the dam's milk production.
- It may be the key to more efficient feed utilization during times of drought or other periods of feed shortage.
- Fifteen to 20 percent less energy is needed to feed early-weaned calves and their dams as compared to cows nursing their calves.
- It fits in with fall calving where heavy winter feeding would otherwise be required.
- Early weaning permits more cows to be carried on a limited feed supply.
- It may be possible to get cheaper gains due to the excellent feed conversion of early-weaned calves.
Disadvantages of early weaning:
- Excellent calf nutrition and management is required.
- More labor is necessary.
- The facilities and feed must be available for small calves.
- The potential increase in weaning weights through heavy-milking cows may be reduced.
- Information on dam performance from production records will be of limited use.