Weaning – What’s working & what’s not

Like many breeders in the area, our calves have been weaned since November. We fence-line weaned, as per our normal procedure. This works well for us as we find both the cows & calves settle quickly. We drafted the calves into mobs based on weight & fed the calves in bunks initially but have now transitioned to self-feeders. They are being fed a high protein calf ration from Alexander Downs. We thought we would give some insight into what’s been working well for us & what hasn’t.

What’s worked:

  • Pinkeye prevention: We haven’t had many pinkeye problems at all so far, despite all the dust & flies. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasoning but we treated the calves with ADE & Easy Dose (for flies) at weaning. We put the fly treatment on their face & polls using brush as they came through the race (rather than along their backs as recommended). We decided not to use Piliguard this year due to minimal impact in the past.
  • Education: It was valuable to walk the calves to the water trough & feed bunks every day initially. This ensured all the calves got some feed & avoided a handful of them gorging on it all. It’s also been a good way to introduce some handling - exposing them to pressure & teaching them to stay as a group.
  • Creep feeders: Prior to weaning we had creep feeders out with the mob for several weeks. Although the calves didn’t seem to be eating much, once weaned we found they came on to the ration straight away without hesitation – because they already had a taste for it.
  • Extra space: We’ve made sure we have ample space for all the calves to get a feed. We’ve found this especially important at the hay feeders – otherwise the smaller calves get pushed out all the time.
  • Keeping the hay feeders full: Now that the calves are on the self-feeders we’ve been very digilant not to let them run out of hay. The risk is that they will get too hungry & gorge themselves on the ration, potentially leading to acidosis.

What hasn’t worked:

  • Elevated hay racks: We’ve found feeding the calves in hay racks led to increased eye issues. We had some with sore eyes & on further inspection they had hay stuck in the back of their eyes. We changed to traditional ring feeders & this has greatly reduced the problem.
  • Self-feeders getting blocked: We use Advantage Feeders with restrictors in place & we’ve found the tray gets blocked quite easily. Because it’s shut off fairly narrow the calves salvia cakes it up & the feed wont flow out. We check them daily & run a screw driver along the tray to keep the feed flowing.
  • Living the good life! Even with the feeders adjusted right down the bigger calves are still eating more than we’d like, they look great but it’s costing us money!

We’d love to hear about what’s working well for you. The more information we can all share the better!

These are simply our findings, not necessarily industry recommended practise.

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