Try these weaning techniques for more productive calves this fall

It won’t be long before it’s time to wean calves so that cows can head into winter in good body condition.  The abrupt separation of calves from their dams is the most common approach to weaning, but it’s also the most stressful, and calves that experience a lot of stress underperform.

It’s easy to see why weaning is stressful on calves; sudden deprivation of milk and social contact with mothers, being handled for vaccinations, changes to feed and water sources, and transportation to a different environment with unfamiliar pen mates is a lot for young animals to cope with. The stress calves experience through weaning depresses their immune systems, making freshly weaned calves the most susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) infections. Stressed calves also have lower feed intakes. Listening to their bawling, seeing them pace in their pens and dealing with sick calves is no doubt stressful on producers too.

This article outlines some ideas to keep stress at a minimum during weaning.  Understanding the principle of low-stress weaning allows producers to wean calves in whatever ways work best on their operation while enjoying the benefits of reduced incidence of disease in calves, reduced costs and time spent on treatments, better weight gain, and a quieter barnyard. Continue reading

Footrot and other cattle lameness: video

The word ‘footrot’ is often mistakenly used to refer to many types of lameness in cattle. Footrot is a bacterial infection between the two claws of the foot. It is typically caused by the Fusobacterium necrophorum bacterium, which invades damaged or injured feet. Because footrot is a bacterial infection to the fleshy part of the foot, this type of lameness can be treated with antibiotics.

There are several different types of lameness, many of which cannot be treated with antibiotics. Whenever possible, producers should closely inspect the feet to determine the type of lameness in order to choose the appropriate treatment. An improper diagnosis can lead to unnecessary administration of antimicrobials, prolonged discomfort to the animal and increasing loss of production. If a lame animal does not improve with antibiotics, it does not have footrot.

The latest video in the Beef Research School series features Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress Part 2 – Improving Profits

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.

In the previous post, we talked about methods to reduce weaning stress in calves.  In this article, we’ll highlight the economic benefits of doing so.

Making weaning a low stress event should always be the goal, whether the calves will stay at home for breeding or feeding, go through internet, satellite or auction mart sales, or head directly to a backgrounding or finishing feedlot. Minimizing stress makes for happy calves, spouses and neighbors, and likely has economic benefits as well, especially for those who sell ’reputation’ cattle or retain ownership. High levels of stress or sickness can negatively impact the profits of producers who retain an ownership stake in their calves past weaning. Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers.

It’s approaching quickly, that time of year when you start to think about weaning your calves. Calves are weaned to make sure that cows can recover their body condition after raising a calf all summer, and to allow for specialized feeding of those calves. All producers do it, but not everyone approaches weaning in the same way.

The most common method of weaning is the abrupt separation of calves from their dams. This method is arguably the most stressful event of a young calf’s life. Not only are the calves abruptly deprived of a ready source of milk, but also social contact with their dams. Then add vaccinations, dietary changes, and transportation to a different environment, with unfamiliar animals, and it’s easy to see why weaning is stressful on calves. Stress depresses the immune system, which makes freshly weaned calves the most susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) infections.

Alternative weaning methods exist, if you are willing to spend a little more time on the process. Continue reading