It is that time of the year again, we are thinking about weaning calves.

It has been an exceptional August with all of the rain. We actually have more grass right now that we have had ever this time of year. This impacts how much feed we have. Right now it looks like we have plenty, so we could possibly leave the calves on longer.

We normally look at is it cheaper to feed the calves separate from momma or with momma. Freshly-weaned calves take extra grain and hay, if needed, and sometimes it will cost more to feed the cow/calf unit together. We need to figure which will be the way to go.

Now if you wean by just loading the calves up and taking them to market, none of this matters. It is all traumatic and causes these calves to be high risk for respiratory infections.

A lot of cattle buyers are looking for only weaned, bunk-broke and water-trough broke calves. They will also pay a premium for them. But, that does mean holding on to those calves for at least 45 to 60 days post weaning. This does mean having another pasture and/or lot to keep these calves.

I was recently reading an article about low-stress weaning in a veterinary journal. It talked about having two separate pastures right next to each other with enough grass and water to feed the stock for seven to 14 days.

With just one gate separating the two pastures, move the cattle very easily back and forth between the two pastures to get them used to both places. After a few days of doing this, have one person run the gate and cut them into momma’s and calves. If you miss a few, do not stop and go get them. Do it in a couple days for low stress. This keeps the stress level down with the mommas and especially the calves.

Most producers eventually want to have that 500- to 600-pound calf at weaning. Now, by reducing the stress level of the calf, we also reduce the possibility of having more respiratory infection in them. And to help with this respiratory infection rate I would have all vaccines in these calves before ever starting this. And if you ever watch a baby after going through the chute, he will run out and find momma to eventually nurse. While back with momma all stress flies away and the calf destresses. This in turn helps the immune system stay highly active and not suppressed.

Now just think about it, if you are stressed out, you are more apt to get sick, also. I have been stressed this week and I am now trying to get the crud that is going around. It will make a believer in you.

Dr. Tim E. O’Neill, DVM, owns Country Veterinary Service in Farmington, Ark. To contact Tim go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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