calve; nose

Cattle production: Weaning calves with nose rings

Question: How long should a calf wear a nose ring to stop it suckling again? Is there a better alternative to a nose ring?

It is generally accepted that a calf should wear a nose ring for about 2 weeks. This can change, however, depending on circumstances.

If it is removed too soon, the calf will start suckling again, and if it stays on too long, it could impair the calf’s eating ability. We should also remember that 1 or 2 calves manage to “steal” milk, even if they are wearing a nose ring.


There are several other ways to wean calves. If a stone kraal is available, 1 of the best methods is to put the calves in the kraal with enough feed (they should not be able to get out) and to leave the cows outside the kraal.

After about 3 or 4 days, the cows can be moved to another camp on the farm. The most important point is that the cows and the calves should not be able to get together.

A second method (if more than 1 herd is to be weaned) is to move the cows from herd 1 to the calves of herd 2, and vice versa. Calves then look for their mothers and by the time they realise mum’s not there, the calves will be almost completely weaned.

Usually, there is less weaning shock if the nose ring method is followed.

  • This article was written by Dr. Hannes Dreyer and appears in Ask the vet: What cattle farmers should know (1), compiled by Dr. Faffa Malan.

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