cows; weaning; cattle; calves

Cattle production: What is weaning shock?

Question: We recently started a feedlot on our farm. How old should calves be before we can wean them for the feedlot? I would also like to know what weaning shock is.

Calves intended for beef production are usually weaned at about 7 months (200 to 210 days). At this stage, their weaning weight varies between 180 kg and 280 kg, depending on the breed and the feed circumstances.

In general, it can be said that as soon as a calf is eating well, it can be weaned and placed in the feedlot. Early weaning of calves also has a favourable effect on the fertility of the cows.

Think carefully about the profitability of the feedlot and be absolutely sure about prices and feed margins. Weaning calves early would be advantageous if the feed margin is favourable (and a profit is thus made during the feeding period).

Weaning shock refers to the loss of weight that occurs when calves are suddenly taken away from their dams and have to fend for themselves. Using weaning rings can limit weaning shock.

A weaning ring looks rather like a nose ring, but has sharp ends. It is inserted in the nose of the calf when it is weaned. When the calf wants to suckle, the sharp points hurt the cow and she will not let the calf suckle. In this way, the calf is weaned while it is still with its dam.

  • 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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