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Offline Muddy Creek Show Cattle

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Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« on: August 15, 2012, 01:16:40 PM »
What are your opinions on weaning calves at this age? Just was thinking and we don't really have the facilities to keep cows and calves in a place where we can separate during day to work with calves to be shown as stocker feeders. So what if I just weaned them at beginning of June, got them going on feed and they were be handy to work with.
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Offline Big M Show Cattle

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2012, 05:52:54 PM »
I have mixed emotions on weaning early. I did wean 5 calves this year at only 14 weeks just over 3 months. They were put on a heavy dose of creep and hay and all are doing well. So you can do it but your going to be spending more in creep than you would have too with leaving them on their mothers for a little while longer. I normally like to wean around the 18 week mark which I know is even early to some people. But I have them on creep before weaning and all do well for me. It is just easier for me to do it that way as I can work with them easier being weaned as all the calves go to the barn by my house than with the cows in the pasture. Also depends on how well the cows milk cause the 5 that I weaned early had been late calves but had mothers that milked well. Something to think about, but yes it can be done.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2012, 05:54:21 PM by Big M Show Cattle »
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Offline leanbeef

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2012, 07:03:30 PM »
Of course it CAN be done. Is it the best scenario for the calf OR for the cow you're drying off and carrying over?...probably not. Otherwise we'd all be doing that instead of weaning calves at 205 days. Everybody's situation is a little different. Personally, I would hate to do that unless I just didn't have any other options. You might not also want to ignore the affect that'll have on the cow in terms of productivity & profitability. Nine months is a long vacation for a beef cow.

Probably not what you were wanting to hear, but that'd be my perspective.

Offline Muddy Creek Show Cattle

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2012, 09:18:05 PM »
Of course it CAN be done. Is it the best scenario for the calf OR for the cow you're drying off and carrying over?...probably not. Otherwise we'd all be doing that instead of weaning calves at 205 days. Everybody's situation is a little different. Personally, I would hate to do that unless I just didn't have any other options. You might not also want to ignore the affect that'll have on the cow in terms of productivity & profitability. Nine months is a long vacation for a beef cow.

Probably not what you were wanting to hear, but that'd be my perspective.
Nope stuff like this is exactly what I wanted to hear, not just the good side. Thanks to both you and Big M.
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Offline ZNT

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2012, 10:06:46 PM »
I 100% believe in early weaning. I do not believe in feeding a calf through the cow.  My preference is 120 days, but have successfully weaned calves as young as 90 days without stunting the calf. I believe in weaning early and then putting the cow on a low enery diet for the next 9 months. The key is getting the calves eating creep early, so weaning is not traumatic. Just my opinion. 
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Offline BridgeViewAngus

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2012, 07:26:27 AM »
I 100% believe in early weaning. I do not believe in feeding a calf through the cow.    
i'm confused, isn't that what cows are meant to do? Raise calves?  Honestly if my cows can't raise a calf and breed back why have them, especially with feed costs being what they are?  Can you elaborate further on this subject, would really like to hear your thoughts. thanks.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 07:27:37 AM by BridgeViewAngus »

Offline nkotb

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2012, 07:57:30 AM »
I think what ZNT is getting at, and I am making an assumption which we all know what happens when we do this, is the fact that, after a certain time frame, the calf is inefficient at gaining off the cow.  This isn't always the case, but that is why creep feeding usually more than pays for itself, as the calf is very efficient at gaining off of grain, only supporting itself, as opposed to a 1400 lb. animal trying to sustain itself as well as feed a live calf and grow another calf inside.  This is only the case for a certain time period, but I know there has been research done to say that weaning early is better for the calf and the cow.  Having said this, every situation is different, and we usually let the year dictate when we wean.  This year we weaned early as we were running out of grass and the calves were eating the creep very well.  Some years, if we have adequate rainfall and adequate grass, we will wait to wean until September 1.

Offline ZNT

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2012, 09:07:50 AM »
I think what ZNT is getting at, and I am making an assumption which we all know what happens when we do this, is the fact that, after a certain time frame, the calf is inefficient at gaining off the cow.  This isn't always the case, but that is why creep feeding usually more than pays for itself, as the calf is very efficient at gaining off of grain, only supporting itself, as opposed to a 1400 lb. animal trying to sustain itself as well as feed a live calf and grow another calf inside.  This is only the case for a certain time period, but I know there has been research done to say that weaning early is better for the calf and the cow.  Having said this, every situation is different, and we usually let the year dictate when we wean.  This year we weaned early as we were running out of grass and the calves were eating the creep very well.  Some years, if we have adequate rainfall and adequate grass, we will wait to wean until September 1.

Thank you for clarifying for me nkotb.  That was exactly the point I was trying to make.  In situations of high feed cost, or drought, early weaning is a more cost effective way to put weight on calves, and preserve body condition scores in the cows.  The area we live in has very high feed cost, and very little pasture available.  So rather than $200/ton hay to a cow to keep her calf gaining and her from losing weight, we wean early.  We also did this on our fall calving herd when I lived in Nebraska.  The cows highest feed needs were after the pastures were gone, requiring us to supplement feed the cows.  Calves were weaned around January 1st, and the cows were turned out on cornstalks.  These cows could then be sustained on a very low nutrients and low cost feed sources.
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Offline CCW

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2012, 09:30:21 AM »
I was skeptical of early weaning. I was always taught the cows raise the calves, but I have sometimes weaned calves headed for show barn around 5 months. This year the drought has been horrible. I weaned all of my calves 1 month ago and they ranged from 3-7 months old and all had been on creep feed for a month. The younger calves never missed a beat and have gained very well. The older calves seemed to take it the hardest. The key to early weaning is getting them started on creep feed before weaning then continuing the same ration after weaning and giving them good quality hay.

Offline DL

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2012, 10:25:31 AM »
At 3 months of age (actually 2 months of age) the calf is physiologically capable of being weaned. To be successful at an early age one should use low stress weaning methods (fence line or 2 step weaning), make sure calves are eating sufficient creep prior to weaning, that they are accustomed to eating hay, that they know where the water is (ie tank isn't too high when half empty) and ideally they should be weaned in an area they are familiar with. Also in a perfect world they should have had one round of respiratory vaccinations and the weather should not be miserably hot or dusty on the day they are weaned (good luck with the last 2 LOL). If you wean early you need to realize that because of the calf size in order to meet nutritional requirements for growth and development the feed needs to be more nutrient dense - ie the rumen is smaller you don't want them filling up on crap hay)

We weaned the earliest we have ever weaned this year (June) because of no pasture (no rain) and first and second calvers working hard and losing condition - we used the 2 step weaning (with the nose flaps) and nobody missed a beat despite it being the hottest day on record when we removed the flaps. Bulls born in Jan ave 635, heifers 581, steer calves born in March 452. Cows are regaining condition on much less feed than when the calves were nursing and they were losing condition. Calves look great.

IMHO if you fail to engage your brain and look at the whole picture (ie weather, heat, lack of pasture, cost and scarcity of feed, condition of cows, ability of calves to be weaned) and insist that cows should raise a calf until 205 days because that is what they should do you have missed some of the basic husbandry and animal welfare issues important to raising cattle - we adjust WW to 205 so that there can be a comparison - it isn't a number you must use or else the weaning police will get ya
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Offline hamburgman

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2012, 10:51:14 AM »
It comes down to economics and in most situations it is cheaper to feed the calf directly then to feed the cow to feed the calf.  I would question numbers that people put together that say a cow nursing a 7-8 month old calf is cheaper gain then feeding the calf directly unless they are in serious range country.  Milk is very metabolically expensive.

Offline chambero

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2012, 10:52:14 AM »
People are talking about two different situations here.

Scenario No. 1 - Show Calf:  To either be a high seller and winner, you have to get that calf as far along as you can as fast as you can.  Momma running around eating nothing but grass will not get that done.  I've pretty well proven that to myself the hard way.  What also doesn't work - throwing a creep feeder out in a huge pasture.  The only way to get that calf fat and ready to show young is to get them in a lot.  The BEST way to do that in my experience - and the most expensive - is bring momma and baby in and feed both of them like a show calf.  If you do that on one from shortly after birth you can have that calf a good 200 lbs ahead of their contemporaries at six months of age.   If you raise a "ringer", its worth the expense.

A more reasonable and economical approach is early weaning.  Wean them at three or four months old and pour the feed to the calf.  Most of the time that calf will not be competetive at prospect shows if you wait till 6 months+ to wean.

Scenario No. 2 - Drought/Limited Pasture Size:  Cows should be able to raise a big calf on grass/supplemental protein if the availability of forage is not a limiting factor for whatever reason. If grass is limited, then Zane is exactly right, you are wasting money from a commercial perspective feeding momma and calf.  Feed the calf, let momma take care of herself.

Offline obie105

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Re: Weaning Feeder Calves at 3 months old?
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2012, 11:18:25 AM »
Daytime weaning works well for us. We bring in the calves every morning to the showbarn feed them and work with them and kick out in the evening with their mothers. Its a good way to transition. They get started on feed and it takes some of the pressure off of the cows. We have done this with 3 to 4 months old with success. Early weaning is almost a necessity if your showing calves or prepping for sale. Calves need the bloom and look that feed gives them.

 

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