Our aim at weaning is to minimise stress and the effects it can have on the animal. We need to have the correct protocols in place to prepare producer and animal to reduce and/or negate the impacts that weaning can have.
Vaccination/mineral injection protocol: A booster or first vaccination of 5 in 1 as a minimum and 7 in 1 for breeding stock, this incorporates leptospirosis protection. An injection of Vitamins AD & E will help boost immunity during periods of stress and especially when they have limited or no access to green feed and they are coming off milk with good levels of vitamin A.
Other optional vaccinations are as follows: A Pestigard vaccination is advisable if the calves are greater than 6 months of age and will be part of your breeding herd. If conditions are favourable for pinkeye then the use of Piliguard vaccine is advised. This is a single shot vaccine and peak response is 4 weeks post application. This last summer pinkeye has a large impact on cattle herds in the district. If the animals are destined for feedlot entry the use of Bovilis MH vaccine is recommended and can gain premiums at some feedlots.
Pre-weaning feed and water introduction: Feeding a small amount of the feed stuffs that will be fed during weaning for the 2 weeks prior to weaning will allow the cows to educate the calves to the new feed source. By doing this, the calves rumen will have started to adjust thus lessening the impact of the diet change. Also, if you are changing from dams to troughs if possible look at introducing cows and calves to troughs prior to weaning, because if calves do not drink they will not eat.
The weaning protocol: Drench if required as per worm test. Booster vaccinations as required of any vaccinations pre-weaning such as 7 in 1 and Pestigard.
An injection of Vitamin B12 will stimulate appetite and promote dry matter intake. Fly control as necessary, this can be especially important if pinkeye has been prevalent previously and they have not been vaccinated. Use Dalgety Swish for fly control.
Yard weaning is ideal for say 2 weeks or so, this will give the calves a chance to be educated with working in the yards and reduce future stress associated with being handled. Keep the cows close if possible to reduce separation anxiety, the cows will wonder off naturally in a day or so.
Supplementing with magnesium keeps the calves calmer and reduces stress. Sodium is required for magnesium absorption and has the added benefit of increasing water intake. Supplements such as Lienerts Mid Mag loose lick and Four Seasons Mag Plus blocks and Pasture 16 can provide magnesium and trace minerals that the weaners require.
If a quality pasture or crop feed source is not available, a supplementary ration with protein 15% and energy 11.5MJ/Kg on a dry matter basis will be required to achieve adequate growth.
The effect of growth rate: Cattle that have been weaned properly and do not experience setbacks grow faster and reach target weights earlier. They also have more even fat distribution and have connective tissue with less collagen cross linkages. These factors make the meat more soluble and tender, the end user has the eating experience they desire. The below photo shows the benefits of an effective weaning program on a rising 2 year old bull.
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