Eye on Extension: Weaning time is around the corner

VALLEY — The most traumatic experience of the year for a livestock producer is weaning time; it is kind of hard on the animals as well. At least for a few days.  Within a few days, most young will be weaned. The youngest animals may take longer to accept their independence.

Weaning time is the time of year that livestock producers often take a closer look at the fruits of the year’s labor. This is the time when cows and calves, as well as ewes and lambs, and does and kids are separated. This teaches the young animals to be self-sufficient and weans them from their mother’s milk and care. There are some practices that can make it easier to wean animals from each other.

All weaning practices are an attempt to separate the mothers and young animals while reducing stress on the animals. When separating mothers and young, have the animals in a pasture or pen where the young animals will stay during the weaning process. If young will be vaccinated before weaning, give them 7 to 10 days with their dam after vaccinations or processing, before the actual weaning.   

One weaning method that helps reduce weaning stress is to wean across the fence line. This method of weaning places the dams on one side of a good fence and the young on the other side. This way, they can see each other but aren’t able to nurse.  After a day or two of being loud and noisy they start to relax and realize they don’t need each other to eat. Good fences are needed so they can’t nurse across them or move across the fences. Animals will walk fence lines to see if there is a way to get across the fence. You’ll need secure fences for a good distance around the young’s pen. 

Another weaning method is to leave the dam and young together but use a weaning device to stop the young from being able to nurse. Some anti-sucking devices are flaps or nose clips that are put in the nose that don’t allow the calf to reach a teat to nurse.

Watch to see that the young are eating and drinking. Long hay is usually easier for animals to start eating compared to chopped hay or pellets. If the young have seen the feed during the time they were with their dam, it will be familiar to them and they will eat it easier as well. 

Parasites can be a problem for stressed animals more than when they aren’t stressed. Internal parasites are well known to be a problem in some areas. There is almost no organ that is exempt from some form of parasite. Some of the greatest returns on investment can come from parasite control. 

Review the vaccination program for the herd. Talk to your veterinarian and see if there are any new recommendations they would make to your vaccination program.  Give vaccinations in the proper locations on the cows. This will help reduce injection site blemishes and reduce rejected meats.

Watch animals closely for any illness. Treat early for any problems found. Give booster shots when needed after the stress of weaning is over. Watch for shipping fever, pneumonia and any other issue that may stop the animals from growing. 

For more information on weaning, contact the CSU Extension Office in the San Luis Valley at 719-852-7381.

Please feel free to visit our website at: http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu for information about services provided and links to other information.

Extension programs are available to all without discrimination, Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating.


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