Early Weaning

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Provided proper management and nutritional needs are met, early weaning will not increase morbidity and mortality rates in calves.
  • Early weaned calves learn to eat palatable rations quickly; introduction to creep feeders and stock tanks before weaning will get calves settled quicker. Stressful procedures like castration and dehorning should be performed well ahead of early weaning.
  • Management and feeding of very early weaned calves (<120 days of age) is best achieved in a dry lot /confined feeding situation.
  • The younger the weaning age of the calf the higher the energy and protein levels will need to be.
  • Early weaned calves (> 120 days of age) can be backgrounded on pasture and have comparable performance to normal weaned (200 d) calves, provided there is an abundance of forage quality and quantity.
  • Very early weaned calves (<120 days of age) backgrounded in a dry lot setting and fed to slaughter may have reduced carcass weights due to finishing sooner. There are however no adverse effects on carcass quality grades and or yield.
  • Calves weaned at 120 days or more, will have comparable finished weights, carcass qualities and yields to that of normal weaned calves (200 days).
  • Provided very early weaned calves (<120 days of age) are not on an energy restricted diet (<1.5 lbs /day) there will be no adverse effects on age of puberty and cyclicity in heifer calves.
  • Very early weaning (<120 days) and or temporary weaning may improve conception rates in younger poor body conditioned ( <2.0; scale 1 - 5) cows and heifers by 25%.
  • Very early weaning (<120 days) and early weaning (>120 days) will reduce grazing pressure and or the grazing needs for the cow herd by at least 25%.
  • Very early weaning (<120 days) and early weaning (>120 days) will reduce the nutritional needs for protein and energy by 30% or more and is an excellent management tool to better match the cow requirements to what is provided by the pasture.
  • Very early weaning (<120 days) and early weaning (>120 days) will significantly improve cow body weight and body condition going into the winter. These increases can be used to reduce the cost of winter feed from $50 - $100 / hd.
  • Using enterprise budget analysis can significantly reduce the cost of production and improve returns for cow calf producers through increasing the grazing opportunities, reducing cow nutritional requirements, reducting winter feed costs and improving conception rates.
Fact Sheets

Early Weaning for the Beef Herd - available in DF format

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

Effects of Age at Weaning and Diet on Growth of Calves.

Effects of Time of Weaning on Cow and Calf Performance - available in PDF format

Nutritional Strategies for Receiving and Feeding Early-Weaned Calves

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

Management of Early Weaned Calves - 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

Time of Weaning: The Economic Implications - available in PDF format
  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 February 3, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 21, 2015.

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