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Outs and Ins of Weanling Sales/Purchases

01 September 2017
Type Media Article

by Anthony O'Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare

These days, weanling sales are starting all over the country. Whether you are a seller or buyer, aim to be handling healthy stock.

Out's - Sale Day:

Check out weanling sales prior to selling day, know in your mind what is market value of your weanling.  Arrive early. Most regular buyers will know farmers who produce quality weanlings. Let it be known that you have quality, weaned stock for sale. Calves weaned weeks before sale should be housed on straw the night before sale and if possible have access to hay. Transport weanlings to sale in a clean, dry, spacious, well bedded, well ventilated trailer or truck. Avoid selling stock that are too light, coughing or have wet snouts. Weanlings are best sold individually. If selling in pairs, then they should be perfectly matched by sex, breed, weight, age and colour. 

In's: 

Marts are a high stress environment for weanlings. Management, organization and good stockmanship are all required to help reduce the risk of respiratory infection developing in purchased weanlings. 

Reduce Infection Risks: 

Prevention is better than cure. With this in mind, suggested best practice will involve the following:

  • Weanlings should spend the shortest possible time at the mart. A rapid, well organized removal system from the mart premises reduces stress and the opportunities to pick up respiratory infections. Buyers need to get to the mart early and observe stock at the intake point. Here, many buyers will know the farmers and their reputation to turn out healthy stock.  Avoid animals that are very nervous, stressed and scouring or have nasal or eye discharges.
  • If possible, transport weanlings home in a well-ventilated, clean, straw bedded truck or trailer. Try to keep purchase batches separate for about two weeks, so that infections that are picked up can be confined to small groups.

After Purchase:

  • Most purchased weanlings will arrive on farms either late in the afternoon or at night. Don't let them out to grass right away. Letting out weanlings that are excited and have maybe sweated excessively will increase the risk of pneumonia. Instead put them into a well bedded and ventilated shed that is free from draughts.
  • On arrival, provide them with fresh drinking water and a small amount of meal and good hay or silage. Introducing meal will allow you to assess if they have been meal feeding before weaning. This should be continued at low rates at grass to maintain growth. Give animals plenty of lying space and avoid housing on slats.
  • Weanlings will normally need to be housed overnight and for the next day. After a day or two they can be released outdoors. 
  • When weather conditions allow; try and get weanlings out in the morning into a small, sheltered, well fenced field with good quality grass. Small fields are best to keep them close together and help herd bonding. 

Going back out to Grass: 

  • Don't turn out if conditions are wet and cold or during periods of muggy weather - wait for a dry fine day.
  • Check on newly purchased weanlings 2-3 times daily to detect early signs of illness. If an animal is showing signs of illness, check the body temperature with a thermometer. The normal temperature is 38 degrees celsius with a variation of 1-2 degrees. Get immediate veterinary assistance if an animal has a raised temperature as pneumonia can spread rapidly in weanlings and isolate that animal straight away.

Sick Animals: 

Dosing Programme: 

  • For purchased weanling of unknown origin, consult your vet for a recommendation as to the most appropriate dosing product to use, in order to minimize any potential pneumonia risk to the animal.
  • When you think there is no worm problem, dosing can be left until 2-3 weeks prior to housing. Use an avermectin based product. These products provide residual cover for a period of 3-6 weeks. This will ensure the animal's lungs are in a healthy condition prior to the high stress housing period.
  • If you are buying in large numbers of weanlings, devising a health protocol or veterinary plan with your vet to cover vaccination for blackleg, pneumonia, etc. Any dosing is time well spent as "Prevention really is better than cure".