Weaning calves: Four management strategies

Four strategies for weaning calves are presented, ranging from the least to the most management intensive.

Least management intensive

Feed a uniform amount of milk or milk replacer to all calves (usually two quarts twice a day). Delay weaning until calves are about ten to twelve weeks of age.

Abruptly stop feeding milk to all calves. Usually all of the calves are eating at least two quarts of starter grain daily; many calves are eating much more grain than this.

Calves are often moved to group housing the same time they are weaned. Often, about three calves out of ten will require medical treatment for weaning stress-induced pneumonia.

A little more management intensive

Feed a uniform amount of milk or milk replacer to all calves (usually two quarts twice a day). Wean calves around eight to nine weeks of age.

At eight weeks start observing grain consumption Abruptly stop feeding milk to all calves that are regularly eating starter grain. Continue milk feeding if a calf is eating less than two quarts of grain daily.

Usually less than one calf out of ten will require additional time prior to weaning. Calves are often kept in the individual housing for a few days after weaning. Only about two calves out of ten will require medical treatment for weaning stress-induced pneumonia.

Much more management intensive

Feed a uniform amount of milk or milk replacer to all calves (usually two quarts twice a day). Wean calves around seven to eight weeks of age.

At six weeks start observing grain consumption. Either gradually or abruptly stop feeding milk to all calves that are regularly eating at least two quarts of grain daily for three or four days in a row. Continue milk feeding until a calf is regularly eating this much grain.

Usually less than one calf out of eight will require additional time prior to weaning. Hold calves in individual housing for five to seven days after weaning. Only about one calf out of ten will require medical treatment for weaning stress-induced pneumonia.

Most management intensive

Feed milk or milk replacer in proportion to the size of the calf (usually starts at two quarts twice a day at birth and increases to about four quarts twice a day by four weeks of age).

The success of increased milk feeding rates is tied to strictly following proper sanitation procedures. Feeding larger amounts of milk or milk replacer contaminated with bacteria always makes calves sick.

No set age for weaning. At two weeks start observing grain consumption (both how long the calf has been eating grain and how much consumed daily).

When grain consumption has been regular for two weeks (usually during fourth week) reduce milk feeding to one-half. Most calf operations save the most labor by dropping one milk feeding.

Stop feeding milk completely when a calf is regularly eating two or more quarts of starter grain daily for three or four days in a row. Calves should be expected to vary widely at this point. Some are ready to wean at thirty-five days while others are not ready until forty-nine days.

Hold calves in individual housing for five to seven days after weaning. Only about one calf out of twenty will require medical treatment for weaning stress-induced pneumonia.

Related links

www.atticacows.com

Author

Sam Leadley

Sam Leadley
62 articles

Consultant on Calf/Heifer Management at Attica Veterinary Associates.

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Attica Veterinary Associates

Attica Veterinary Associates

Attica Veterinary Associates provide veterinary services and products, independent consultation in dairy management, nutrition and performance, and trainings.

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