During periods of drought and reduced forage availability, cattle producers often look for management tools that will allow them to save what pasture they have and preserve the hay and stored feed they will need to get them through to next spring. Weaning calves earlier than normal is one tool that when done properly can result in healthy calves with increased weaning weights, and reduced nutrient requirements in the cows, which can preserve available pasture and hay for future use.
For early weaning to be successful, calves need to be weaned, properly vaccinated, and fed a ration that will support an optimum rate of 2.0 pounds/head/day or greater. If good quality hay is available and can be fed free-choice, supplementing calves with a high energy feed such as Western 16% Hi Energy Cake (#144) at the rate of 1.0 pound/100 pounds of body weight will help achieve the desired gain. If hay is in short supply of poor quality, calves should be supplemented with Western Transition Ration (#201 & #205) at the rate of 1.5 – 2.0 pounds/100 pounds of body weight. Transition Ration is a moderate energy, high fiber pellet that contains built in roughage sources that can partially replace some of hay normally fed. Transition Ration is not a complete feed, but it can be fed as the sole ration for short periods of time in forage emergency situations.
Cows also benefit from early weaning. When calves are nursing, the cow has a high nutrient requirement and needs a significant amount of protein and energy to support milk production. Once the calves are weaned, the cow’s nutrient requirements are reduced and as much as 25% less feed is required to maintain body condition. Less pasture is required to maintain the cow and she goes into the winter in better body condition.
Early weaning is one tool that allows cow/calf producers to reduce grazing pressure on drought stressed pastures thus making more forage available to the money-making part of the herd, the cows.
For more information on early weaning calves, please call us at 1-800-362-0328.