Weaning - Calves

By the Alberta Government, Ropin The Web. Management objective: Evaluate production and shape herd for future management and marketing decisions.
calendar icon 1 October 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Points to Remember

  • The market value of the calves produced can affect income from the herd as much as the fertility of the herd or the weaned weight of the calves.
  • Knowing the marketing alternatives available to the producer, and the way the market system works will have an important effect on the profitability of the cow-calf operation.
  • Predicting future price trends is necessary if the producer is to make an informed decision on which of the market alternatives will be the most profitable in any given year.
  • Factors affecting beef prices include feed grain prices, export markets, the supply of beef; and outside factors such as supply of competing meats, supply of other protein sources such as dairy products, fish and plant proteins and income levels of consumers.
  • The annual price cycle for calves typically has the lowest prices for the year in the late fall and the highest prices in the early spring.
  • Better marketing decisions will be made if the producer weighs the alternatives well before weaning and plans for the most profitable alternative for that particular year.
  • Market news sources include daily radio farm broadcasts, the Canadian Cattle Commission CANFAX website www.canfax.ca, and the Alberta Agriculture & Food Market Report on Ropin' the Web.
  • Internal parasites such as WARBLES can cause serious economic losses. The best time for warble control at weaning in the fall is with the use of systemic insecticides.
  • Louse control is improved in the herd when cows and calves have been given systemic warble control treatments at weaning.
  • Herd performance should be measured and evaluated at weaning time for both the cows and calves.
  • Weaned weight of the calves is affected by milk production, average daily gain of the calf and the age of the calf at weaning. Calves born early are heavier.
  • Reproductive performance of the cows (whether the cow calves early or late in the calving season) should be considered when selecting heifer calves for herd replacements.
  • The target weight and condition score for breeding replacement heifers must be kept in mind when planning the feeding of these heifers over the winter.

Good Management Practices

  • Weaning is stressful to calves. It is best to conduct other stressful procedures such as vaccination, warble control castration and dehorning of calves, two to three weeks prior to weaning
  • Review the vaccination program and be ready to give the necessary vaccinations and booster shots at the appropriate time of least stress, preferably before weaning
  • Watch weaned calves carefully to see that they are all eating and drinking. Calves which are slow to come to feed may be showing early signs of shipping fever or pneumonia.
  • Isolate all sick calves as soon as possible where they can be given proper care and where they will not infect other calves.
  • Calves under weaning stress need energy from feed. Feed must be palatable. Calves will usually start eating good quality long hay quicker than chopped hay, gain &/or pellets.
  • Preconditioning programs may be a benefit to those expecting to market their calves in the fall. The producer should examine the costs and benefits in the light of his own situation.
  • To avoid shrink in marketing calves, make sure they have been properly prepared.

Plan Ahead

  • Review plans and goals for developing replacement heifers and marketing the remaining heifers.
  • Plan the feeding program for calves that are to be held over the winter.
August 2007

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