by Judy Richardson and Michael Cox
Last month we discussed weaning procedures that cause the least problems for both animal and farmer. This month we introduce a very handy product to make the task of weaning even easier.
All cattle ranchers know the stress of weaning – broken fences as cows and calves try to re-unite, unsettled cattle, bawling calves and bellowing cows. The stress of weaning not only takes its toll on the farmer but on the cattle as well. But all that can change. Silent, stressfree weaning is achievable.
Most cattle farmers have tried numerous methods and techniques to try and relieve the stress of weaning from both a management and a production point of view. The secret to stress-free weaning is a so-called two step weaning process. The use of a NoseRing allows the calf to be weaned next to its mother before being separated at a later stage. A NoseRing is a simple, plastic device that can be fitted onto a calf’s nose. The NoseRing does not pierce the inside of the nose but hooks into the nose using a fastener to tighten it as required. It is easy to fit and also easy to remove after weaning for repeated re-use.
For stress-free gradual weaning during drought periods, NoseRings allow the calves to remain in the comforting presence of their mothers but give the cows the opportunity to maintain or improve body condition for the next calving season.
Unlike the conventional method of weaning by abruptly removing the calves from the cows, NoseRings are fitted onto the calves and they remain with their mothers. The NoseRings force the cows to wean the calves themselves in a more natural manner.
When the calf tries to suckle the cow, the NoseRing not only makes it physically difficult for the calf to suckle the teat, it also provides slight discomfort to the cow’s udder causing her to nudge the calf away and so wean the calf herself over a period of several days. After the gradual weaning, the NoseRings can be removed and then the calves are separated from the cows.
Some people are automatically put off by the fact that the calves need to be worked twice, but taking a few hours to insert NoseRings into a herd of 200 calves, and a couple of hours to remove them four to six weeks later is a good time investment. The use of NoseRings for even a week will have significant production advantages.
Time is not the only good investment associated with the NoseRings. The roduction advantages are enormous. Private studies on calves weaned with NoseRings compared to calves weaned conventionally show that steers weaned gradually with NoseRings were 90 kg (200 lbs) heavier at slaughter, and finished between 60 to 100 days earlier than the conventionally weaned calves. Heifers weaned with NoseRings and kept as replacement stock had better conception rates at first breeding and needed less calving assistance than conventionally weaned heifers. The secret is that the NoseRings allow the calves to keep gaining weight all the time. With gradual weaning, less feed is required to grow out young stock as they don’t get ‘checked’ and simply continue to thrive. The gradual weaning of the heifers allows them to be larger and more mature at breeding, which results in fewer problems in later life.
Weaning is the most stressful event in a calf’s life. Gradual weaning using NoseRings is the secret to stress-free weaning. Not only does it make the management of weaning a pleasure but the production advantages from allowing the weaners to continue to grow and thrive is the soundest decision ranchers can make. Weaning time can be quiet and relaxed. Once weaned, the calves walk away and never look back.
NoseRing is available at Livestock Services. Visit them at Pamodzi Highway, off Nangwenya Road, Showgrounds, or call them at 254024, 254497 and 254498 or 0975-474119 and 0969-635407.
Adapted from American Cattleman July 2018 – Stress-free Weaning – by Michael Cox (p 14-16).