What’s good for calves is good for your pocketbook

The benefits of low-stress weaning are clear — higher weight gains 
and a big drop in treatments

Weaning is a traumatic event for calves and when it happens abruptly, they are more likely to be sick later on.
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Calves that are fenceline weaned vocalize 50 per cent less, walk less, and have higher weight gains in the first 10 weeks post-weaning compared to conventionally weaned calves.

Fenceline weaning is nearly as effective as two-stage weaning at reducing signs of stress. With this method, cows and calves are separated by a fence but can still see, hear, and smell one another — and preferably also have nose-to-nose contact.

A Saskatchewan veterinarian who uses fenceline weaning with his own cattle, reports that calves weaned using low-stress practices have a treatment rate of only five to 10 per cent instead of the 25 to 30 per cent he sees in abruptly weaned calves.

Fenceline weaning requires a strong-enough fence to keep calves and cows apart so four to six strands of barbed wire or page wire — or two to three strands of electric fencing (if calves are familiar with electric fences) — is recommended. Another option is to use a set of corrals on pasture, locking cows in and leaving the calves in the familiar environment. Fenceline weaning should last a minimum of three days.

Other low-stress weaning techniques include two-stage weaning (using anti-suckling nose tags) and employing quiet handling methods. For more information, go to www.beefresearch.ca.

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