Weaning Management

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • A well-developed weaning program minimizes stress, weight loss, sickness, and death in newly weaned calves. Post weaning sickness and death loss robs both calf producers and cattle feeders of potential profits.
  • To help reduce stress at weaning, provide working corrals, chutes, alleys and sick pens that permit easy sorting, handling and treatment. Design weaning pens to encourage intake of feed and water, to minimize nutritional stress, and to check and sort sick cattle easily.
  • Offer dry feed to the calf at least 1 week before weaning to get the calf accustomed to the post weaning ration. Providing the same type of feed and feeding system post weaning reduces stress.
  • Palatable, good quality pasture, grass hay, or medium quality alfalfa grass hay post weaning gets the weaned calf to eat. If grain is fed, rolled oats or barley makes a palatable, high energy feed. A calf should be consuming one pound of grain per 100 pounds of calf weight by the end of the first week of feeding.
  • A good health program is designed to prevent disease. Develop a disease prevention and control program with your veterinarian several weeks prior to weaning or purchasing calves. Preventative vaccinations should be given 2 to 4 weeks before weaning.
  • Remove internal and external parasites by using a broad-spectrum endectocide prior to weaning,
  • Early weaning of calves may improve weight gain. If pastures are in poor condition or if cows are thin, early weaning may make sense. A proper nutrition package is needed for the calves to continue growing.
  • Fence line contact between calf and dam reduces stress. Allowing contact for the 7-day period after weaning results in lower weight loss in calves compared to those that are completely separated.
  • Early detection and treatment of sick calves is the key to having fewer death losses or chronic poor-doing calves. Check calves closely for early symptoms of illness 3 to 6 times daily for the first 2 weeks. Pen checking requires patience, concern, close observation, and awareness of the unusual. Animals that do not compete at the feed bunk require individual attention.
  • Take the temperature of cattle showing suspicious symptoms. Any animal with a temperature of 40C needs immediate treatment. Cattle with slightly lower temperatures may not need treatment, but may benefit from a stay in the recovery pen. Being closer to feed and water and having less competition from other calves, will help them to perform.
Fact Sheets

Early Weaning for the Beef Herd - available in PDF format only

Early Weaning Beef Calves

Early Weaning of Calves may be Economical - available in PDF format only

Effects of Age and Method of Castration on Performance and Stress Response of Beef Cattle

Management of the Weanling Calf

Nutritional Strategies for Receiving and Feeding Early-Weaned Calves - available in PDF format only

Reducing Weaning Stress of Beef Cattle: Frequently Asked Questions

The Use of Early Weaning in Practical Cattle Management - available in PDF format

The Weaning Two Step

Weaning Beef Calves - available in PDF format

Weaning on Pasture for Low-stress Beef Production - available in PDF format

Research Papers

A Review of Early Weaning - Effects on Calf Performance, Digestive System Development, Sexual Development, Animal Behavior, Carcass Quality and Economics - available in PDF format only

Calving system and weaning age effects on cow and preweaning calf performance in the Northern Great Plains

Effects of time of weaning, supplement and sire breed of calf during the fall grazing period on cow and calf performance - available in PDF format only

Time of Weaning: The Economic Implications
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on March 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 23, 2017.

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