More tips on weaning calves

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

The following is Part 2 of an article providing information on weaning calves, continuing with potential problems:
8. Feed change
Avoid drastic feed changes. A change in diet requires the growth of different organisms in the rumen to digest the feed.
Depending on the type of feed, it takes a few days to two weeks for the organisms to adapt.
Grazing calves often are not familiar with drylot rations. Calves which have eaten some hay—even early in their life—will adjust more rapidly to drylot rations.
The use of grass or oat hay often is more palatable to calves than alfalfa or rations high in grain. If the basic ration is chopped, then scattering some long-stemmed hay over the top of the feed may help attract them to it and help them start eating.
Many producers prefer not to use silage in the ration for the first seven-14 days, and feel the calves adapt better than to rations with silage.
Weaned calves will need relatively high levels of energy to replace the milk they are used to in order to keep them gaining. They soon will need a concentrate in the ration, in addition to the hays mentioned above.
The amount of concentrate must be controlled carefully to prevent rumen acidosis.
Creep feeding the calves prior to weaning will be a great aid in their adaptation to feed. But the decision to creep feed should be based on practical and economic feasibility.
9. Close observation and early treatment
The calves must be observed at least two-three times a day for the first month.
Any calves which are ill should be treated immediately, according to a pre-planned protocol of products (selected after discussion with your veterinarian).
For groups experiencing a very high illness rate, consider treating the entire group.
10. Vaccination
There are two major groups of vaccines that should be considered to assist weaning—those for clostridial diseases and those for respiratory diseases.
Consult with your veterinarian about specific products and timing of administration.
It is critical for producers to remember that vaccines which call for a booster dose usually will not stimulate a protective level of immunity in that animal until 10-14 days after the second injection.
The initial dose merely primes the immune system but gives very little protection. Producers continue to ignore that fact.
The use of poorly-timed vaccination programs result in a severely-reduced level of herd immunity.
Whatever vaccine and timing schedule is used, it is critical that vaccines be handled properly. Read and follow directions for refrigeration, reconstitution, equipment sterilization, and avoiding sunlight and heat.
Don’t mix vaccines together that are not directed for mixing.
Also remember to observe guidelines to reduce injection site lesions. Use the subcutaneous route whenever possible and if the intramuscular route is needed, use the neck (don’t inject into the top of the rump).
For a successful weaning, implement a good general management program and utilize a sound vaccination system as part of that management program.
Dates to remember
•Sept. 28–Cattle sale, Stratton, 9:30 a.m. (for more info, contact sales barn manager Philip Krahn at 271-0425).