Kansas State University Extension Specialists Dale Blasi and Twig Marston note that many producers do not realize they can wean calves more than 90-days old and/or greater than 200 pounds with minimal complications. Calves that are fed balanced rations in drylot will
weigh similarly to mother-reared calves throughout their lifetime. The specialists offer the following points to consider in early weaning decisions:
- Early weaned cow/calf pairs consume approximately 25 percent less feed than normally weaned pairs.
- Calf performance is not compromised. Dry, early gestation beef cows require only 60 percent of the energy and 50 percent of the protein of lactating cows.
- Dry cows will consume 30 percent less forage than lactating cows.
- It is more efficient to feed calves directly than to feed cows to sustain milk production.
- It is much cheaper to maintain or regain cow body condition during the summer and fall months than to attempt to increase cow weights during the winter and spring months. By avoiding thin cows (low body-condition scores), suboptimal reproductive rates will be avoided.
- Dry cows require 60 percent less water than lactating cows.
- Young cows (first and second lactation) are the ideal candidates for early weaning. This is because of their additional requirements for growth besides maintenance and lactation. Another strategy to relieve pressure on pastures is to reduce inventory by pregnancy testing and culling earlier than normal. With low grain prices, this would be a logical time to glean those females
that would otherwise be intended for market. Access to good records will facilitate culling decisions. Pregnancy detection at this time of year can determine those females that are open or bred late. This is one way of reducing some grazing pressure when forage supplies are short. Many Kansas cattle producers use the “three O” management plan. First, cull cows that are old, open and ornery. Then cull deeper for unsound cows, late calvers and low-producing females.
- Producers located in areas affected by drought should strongly evaluate limited creep feeding. Previous research has shown some of the best responses to creep rations occur in dry years with calves on first- and second-calf females or where poor pasture conditions are restricting normal milk production.