Take the stress out of weaning

NoseRings to wean calves have been around since 1997, when Dick Richardson of Vryburg came up with the concept to reduce costs from loss of production due to stress. It soon transpired that NoseRings offer several additional advantages, such as easier management of grazing planning, larger and fewer herds, and easier single herd management.

If you don’t have to separate your weanlings from the cow herd, it simply makes herd management so much easier.

Trial results – extensive cattle operation

In 1998 a trial was conducted on an extensive beef operation near Kimberley, weaning 1 500 calves. NoseRings were fitted to calves, and they were then allowed to stay with their mothers. Results showed that calves and cows continued to grow during the weaning process. More specifically, heifer calves that were weaned with NoseRings and then left to run with their mothers until the bulls were put into the herd, weighed 30 kg more than their conventionally weaned counterparts.

This could mean the difference between bulling heifers at 15 months instead of at 18 months! With oxen, this extra gain can be translated into finishing earlier and weighing more. Cows putting on condition through the weaning period means having cows in better condition at calving and thus higher conception rates the following season.

Feedlot trial results

In 2000 a trial was conducted by a major feedlot organisation to determine, amongst other things, the impact that weaning with NoseRings would have if fitted for two weeks prior to the calves being trucked to the feedlot. The results from these trials were also significant.

A trial group of 51 calves was weaned with NoseRings two weeks prior to being transported to the feedlot. The average weight at weaning was 251 kg. When this group was weighed at the feedlot after transportation and a two-day stabilisation period, the average weight of the weaners was 254 kg – an average gain of 3 kg or 1,2%. Of this group, 29% (that is 15 animals) had to be treated for various ailments during their time at the feedlot. These 15 animals required 20 treatments, which means they responded to treatment quickly.

The control group of 49 calves was not weaned prior to being loaded to the feedlot. The average weight before being loaded was 250 kg. When this group was weighed at the feedlot after transportation and a two-day stabilisation period, the average weight of the weaners was 239 kg – an average loss of 11 kg or 4,4%. Of this group 61% (that is 30 animals) had to be treated for various ailments during their time at the feedlot. These 30 animals required 63 treatments, which indicates chronic conditions (all had to be treated more than once).

Growth in the feedlot with the trial group was as follows:

  • The average daily gain improved by 156 grams per day
  • Standing days were reduced by 16 days.
  • Mass loss from travelling stress and the two-day stabilisation period was eliminated as compared to 4,4% loss on wet weaned calves.


All across the country there are farmers who swear by the NoseRing, despite the fact that most recognise that it is not totally fail safe. The number of problem cases, they agree however, pale in comparison to the advantages they gain by using this nifty weaning device.

JD van der Vyver farms on Brandwag in the Vryburg district: He has been using NoseRings for many years. One of the most important advantages, he finds, is that it becomes very easy to wean selectively.

“If you want to, for example, wean a first calver’s calf a little earlier to give the mother a bit of a break, you just apply a NoseRing and leave the calf with its mother. In addition, the Nose-Ring gives you the flexibility to further wean selectively according to birth date. Over a calving season of three months, there is a huge difference between the first calves and the last ones. The NoseRing makes it possible for the last calves to also reach the ideal weaning weight.”

JD says he had good seasons when he had extra grazing. In those cases, he was able to leave the calves in the herd for another month or two to gain extra weight.

“My experience is that you don’t have any weight loss during weaning with the NoseRing on the one hand, and on the other, that you have the flexibility to increase your profits in some years by not having to sell your calves when the market is flooded by other sellers.
I am very excited about the NoseRing.”

According to Alison Oates of the farm Oatesdale near Harrismith in the Eastern Free State, the NoseRing is incredibly handy with out of season calves. As these calves are usually marketed on their own, or in very small batches, the NoseRing gives one the freedom to leave these calves in the cow herd until the prices are acceptable. In addition, she says, you need a very good kraal if you want to wean in the traditional manner, which costs a lot of money to erect. The NoseRing offers an alternative in addition to the very obvious advantages of reducing stress.

Owen Taute of the farm Grysrand in the Vryburg area says the NoseRing offers options that he would not have had otherwise.

“During good seasons I sell my bull calves directly from their mothers at around 8 months of age and keep about 90% of my heifers. These heifers I wean in the cow herd with NoseRings. This reduces my management considerably, as I don’t have to provide for a separate herd.

“When, however, it is a difficult year and I want to wean early to help the cows, I wean the whole lot but keep them in the herd for a good 6 weeks. Only then I take the bull calves away.”

Owen says there is another instance where NoseRings come in very handy, and that is with diarrhoea. When a young calf has diarrhoea, he treats the calf with antibiotics and puts in a nose ring for about two days. The calf can drink water but cannot suckle. After two days the diarrhoea is cured and he takes the nose ring off for the calf to start suckling again. Problem solved in 99% of the cases, he says.

Piet van der Linde of Tweefontein, also in the Vryburg area, has been using NoseRings for many years. The main reason, he says, is that he does not experience broken fences as with the traditional way of weaning.

“With the NoseRings I don’t even know I am weaning, so easy and laid-back everything goes. I keep the weanlings with their mothers for about a week before I take them away without too much weaning shock. Ideally, I then keep the bull calves separate from the heifer calves. The type of season will determine exactly how long I keep the bull calves, but the aim is to keep them until August, when there are very few other calves in the market. This is when the prices are usually significantly higher than in April or May, when most calves are in the market.”

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.


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