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How to wean

Yard weaning is optimum to ensure weaners are accustomed to moving through gateways/races and can be kept secure while being introduced to new rations.

Feeding hay

The best feed for weaners while in the yards is good quality hay, however, lighter and younger weaners need additional supplements such as protein meals for continued growth. Leafy grass hay is convenient for freshly weaned calves and is an excellent and safe starter ration. Avoid feeding hay or meal on the ground as fecal contamination can occur, leading to coccidiosis and bacterial infections. Using hay feeders, troughs or grain feeders will keep feed elevated and help minimise wastage, which can be substantial with on-ground feeding.

Calves generally lose weight immediately after weaning if the quality or quantity of feed isn’t adequate, or if the rumen hasn’t developed well enough to digest it. However, calves will recover from this weight loss with good nutrition, as most of the live weight loss is associated with gut fill, which can be regained once animals start eating again.

Recommendations for feeding weaners in yards:

  • Allow 15–20cm of trough length per weaner.
  • Feed weaner pellets and protein meals twice weekly to minimise bullying and labour costs.
  • Make gradual changes in the amount or type of feed to prevent digestive upsets.
  • Move calves into weight groups as they grow.
  • Keep accurate records to determine if intakes are adequate and cost-effective.
  • Set achievable target live weights to determine when weaners can exit the yards.
  • Ensure weaners have access to plenty of clean water.

Recommendations for feeding weaners in paddocks:

  • Good weaner paddocks have abundant pasture species (>70% 3P – perennial, productive, palatable) or use an oat or stand over sorghum crop.
  • Ensure fences are secure and pastures are free of toxic plants.
  • Minimise risk of parasite burden by using a spelled paddock.
  • Ensure weaners have access to plenty of clean water.

 

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