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Weaning Autumn born Suckler Calves


Many autumn born suckler calves are now being weaned. It is important to try to reduce stress as much as possible during weaning. Áine O'Riordan, Teagasc Advisor, Cork West and Aidan Murray Teagasc Beef Specialist discuss meal feeding as part of the BEEP-S weaning option here

Weaning breaks the maternal-offspring bond and removes milk from the calf’s diet. Weaning of suckler calves can be a stressful time on both cows and calves. Reducing this stress is important from both animal welfare perspective and to maintain performance.

Why is it so important to reduce weaning stress?

Stress has a negative effect on the immune system, making calves more susceptible to disease. For the recently-weaned calf, susceptibility to pneumonia or bovine respiratory disease can be a particular problem.

Feeding concentrates pre-weaning

Research at Teagasc Grange has shown that single-suckled beef calves supplemented with concentrates prior to weaning were less immune-compromised, started consuming meal faster when housed indoors, and spent more time lying down (rather than standing and walking) post-weaning compared with non-supplemented calves.

BEEP-S Meal feeding

For the BEEP weighing scheme, one option chosen by many farmers was to feed meal to calves. Under this requirement, calves must be fed meal 4 weeks before weaning and 2 weeks after weaning (1Kg per calf per day). When calves are eating meal it helps reduce stress during the weaning period. Cows and Calves should also be weighed for the BEEP scheme prior to weaning.

Calves can be fed using either meal troughs or creep feeders. Keep receipts for any meal, compound feeds, staights or coumpounds purchased. Record the dates of weaning in your own notebook for each batch of animals weaned as you may need to provide this if inspected by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine. Also keep records of sale dates of animals.

Watch as Aidan Murray, outlines the meal feeding option of BEEP-S in the video below

Avoid additonal stressors at weaning. e.g. calves should be castrated at least four weeks prior to weaning date, or at least two weeks after the calf has been weaned.

Chapter 46 Managing-Weaning (PDF) gives clear guidelines on best practices around weaning on suckler farms.

Teagasc Advisors and Specialists are regular contributors of articles to Teagasc Daily. You can contact any of our Teagasc offices using this link Teagasc Advisory Regions here