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Reduce weaning stress to increase success

By Phil Johnson, Pharmco Animal Nutritionist

Weaning can be a stressful time of year for producers and cattle alike, but it doesn’t have to be!

By putting some thoughtful time into planning and preparing, you can significantly reduce stress and increase profitability.

First, it’s important to make time for general assessments. Are the bunks and water tanks ready? Is the feed equipment serviced and ready to go? What feedstuffs are available and what must be purchased? Which health program will be used and are the supplies readily available?

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as being ready to work only to realize you’ve overlooked the basics. Once you’ve taken stock of what needs to be done, you can more easily plan the time necessary to fix, order, and locate weaning essentials.

Second, you want to make sure your feed rations and batch sheets make sense for the year you’re having. For example, if you’re short on hay, you probably want to feed more silage. Especially when hay is short, you’ll also want to consider using earlage in your ration. This wet ground ear corn option helps reduce your dependence on hay and is a reliable energy source.

Can you accommodate the ration change with feedstuffs on-hand? If so, does everyone in your operation know and understand the change?

Batch sheets are always important, but they are essential when it comes to making sure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to managing feed sources and herd health.

On this line, you also want to plan for medicated feeds like Aureo and Amprolium. Even in the best situations, there is stress at weaning time. The last thing you want is sick calves! Taking preventative measures at the start will add up to significant savings later.

This is where pre-conditioning calves plays an essential role. As you make a plan for weaning, I encourage you to consider pre-conditioning your herd. This simple—yet very important—practice sets your herd up for long-term success.

Numerous studies indicate pre-conditioning leads to healthier, thus more profitable, herds. Pre-conditioning helps lessen stress at weaning as calves take to the feed bunks sooner with greater efficiency.

Finally, as you make plans for weaning your herd, take some time to evaluate your physical weaning process. If you’re using traditional weaning methods, you might want to take a look at fenceline or two-step weaning methods.

Only you know what makes the most sense for your operation, but it’s always a good idea to stay on top of the different practices being used.

Our Pharmco teams are ready to help you through every stage in your operation! Feel free to contact me or any of our Pharmco stores for your pre-conditioning, weaning, and health plan needs.

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