Weaning The Right Way

Aug 23, 2023


From the time they hit the ground until they are in the sale ring many farmers and ranchers depend on a good calf crop to ensure their production stays running. Cow/calf operations do not always know when to focus resources to gain optimal returns. Weaning calves is one of those crucial times that should be heavily weighed in on with any operation. By helping calves adapt to new diets, limiting the amount of stress and promoting/giving them optimal health care, we set up our calves' performance for the next stage in their life.  

Weaning is defined as the process of gradually introducing young animals to their new adult diet while withdrawing the supply of their mother’s milk. There are many different practices for weaning and each has its place for the producer. The process and how we are changing the calves' diets need to be considered while weaning.   

In our area, weaning often happens when calves are on pasture with mom during the summer.  During this time, they have all they need, mom’s milk, some grass, water and minerals. The two biggest during these months are their mom’s and grass. As the calf grows mom will eventually wean the calf, but normally we help her do this.   

Weaning is a pivotable and stressful point for calves and we want to assist them as best we can. Adding creep into a calf’s diet before this time can help limit their stress. To utilize our best options, we use products from the Accuration line from Purina. Creeping our calves before they are away from mom will allow them to start changing their diets on their own. The creep feed utilizes intake-modifying technology, to ensure that calves do not overeat (like we like to on ice cream or sweets). This technology has been tested repeatedly with impressive results. The creep gives calves time to get used to a new diet, a new creep feeder and a new ‘mom’ basically. Then, after weaning, after having had the creep feeder out in the pasture with them and mom, we pull it directly into the pen they are brought to. This gives them a sense of something secure and the same as before weaning. The calves will know where they can rely on feed to be and have already been exposed to feed in bunks to ensure a quick transition to their new diet. This helps ensure maximizing the cattle’s potential for gain. 

Creep feeding though, might not fit all operations, that is why we tend to compile an arsenal of other transition products. Stress care is a great option if you have plenty of adequate forages for the calves to consume at time of weaning. Within stress care 5 we have different options for each producer's needs. This product is best utilized for those who want to be up close and personal with their animals, feeding by hand and watching to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Another option for those hand feeding is Precon Complete. There are many places Precon is used but it is best known for its place in the weaning world. This product is one that producers can hand feed with fewer amounts of forage, none, or lesser quality forage. These feed options are all highly palatable and built to assist our producers in their production.  

All the Purina starter feeds have been updated over the last 5 years to bring the RX3 Immune Support Technology into the ration. This additive is utilized to help prime the calf’s immune system, to ensure they can react correctly to health challenges, respond to them more appropriately and then return to optimal health which is one of our keys when weaning.  

Today we have new ways and better technology than we ever have had to aid in our programs to ensure our effectiveness in situations like this. We can build programs that maximize producers’ dollars for their calves. We can grow cattle to improve not only their quality but also your bottom line as a producer. Come see us at MKC or MWF to start off on the right step. 

Article provided by Katelin Hendricks, Counter Specialist.