Gradual weaning of calves reduces stress, increases profits

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As reported in High Plains Journal. Weaning at home reduces stress and improves profit in calves, says University of Missouri Extension beef nutritionist Eric Bailey. Unfortunately, more than 55% of calves are weaned on the trailer on the way to the sale barn, according to USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System surveys.

Calves face many types of stress in their early days, including weaning, castration, vaccinations, diet changes and transportation. Stress increases their risk of contracting a respiratory disease upon entering the feedlot. Bailey says 17% of calves entering the feedlot show signs of respiratory disease. This costs the beef industry $800 million annually.

Producers can reduce some of that stress by weaning at home, which Bailey calls a “tried-and-true” method.

A couple of “at home” techniques:

• Nose clips in the nostril, which prevent the calf from sucking and encourage them to eat hay and feed concentrates. After the nose clip is removed, calves are physically separated from their dams. This low-stress method costs about $2.25 per nose flap.

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