Tips on weaning cattle

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

Production and death loss of calves at weaning is second only to the losses at calving.
Weaning is a very stressful time and bovine respiratory disease (pneumonia, shipping fever, etc.) is a common problem. Coccidiosis and other digestive problems, such as acidosis (grain overload), also are common.
There are some vaccines which can be of help, but it’s important to recognize there are other factors which must be controlled in order to have a successful weaning program.
Vaccines should be viewed as an aid to herd health programs—not as the cure-all.
Try to manage your cattle to avoid or minimize the effect of the potential problems listed below, then use a good, basic vaccination program to help support your management efforts.
Causes severe irritation to the upper respiratory tract and lungs, and is a common problem in handling large numbers of cattle.
Sprinkle irrigate holding areas and corral pens to reduce dust.
Process cattle in the early morning, where possible. Cattle tend to hold their body heat, so even if you work them in the early evening, when it may seem to be cooling down for you, they still will be retaining body heat.
Any activity—or even just standing in the direct sun—will elevate their temperature and endanger their health.
This is another irritant to the upper respiratory tract.
To minimize this effect, separate the calves away from the cows so they can’t hear each other.
Some calves are not acquainted with water troughs and are afraid of them while others are so busy bawling, they don’t take time to find the water and drink.
Use of a trough similar to one they may have been around may help.
Allowing the water to continue to run a small stream into the trough also may help get their attention and draw the calves to it.
However, allowing the water to overflow the trough may result in puddles that will increase the opportunity for spread of coccidiosis.
This is very stressful, especially if it leaves the horn sinus open or if there are flies present. It should be done at a younger age in almost all cases.
If it has not been done prior to weaning, then it probably should wait until at least 30 days after weaning.
There is a growth benefit derived from intact males, but potential breeding problems and later stress offset the gains.
It usually would be better to castrate at a younger age and then implant those calves.
As with de-horning, if it hasn’t been done prior to weaning, then it probably should wait until at least 30 days after weaning.
Calves that have been grazing in permanent pastures or wet meadow areas may benefit from de-worming.
For the greatest benefit, discuss product selection and timing for use with your veterinarian.
Look for Part 2 of information on weaning calves next week.