Adding weaning weight to calves
By JERRY LITTLE
With higher beef cattle prices expected this fall, livestock producers should add all the weaning weight possible to calves. Producers can increase calf weaning weight by properly using growth-promoting implants, rotational grazing and creep feeding and reducing calves’ exposure to parasites.
By the time calves are three to four months old the majority of their nutrients should come from something other than their mother’s milk. Rotation will keep pasture in front of the calf fresh and vegetative at all times. This will increase both pasture digestibility and calf rate of gain.
Another way to increase weaning weight is to creep feed by using concentrates to supply extra nutrition to calves. However, the most economical method is to creep feed for the short term, the last 45 days prior to weaning. This will stimulate growth almost as much as season-long creep feeding. This provides a low conversion of feed to additional gain for calves on grass-legume pastures.
If grass is plentiful, but not high quality in July and August, a limit-fed, high-protein creep
feed will boost pasture intake and utilization resulting in increased calf performance. If
drought occurs and pasture is short but good quality, a limit-feed, high-energy creep feed is preferred. Salt is a good method to control creep feed intake.
Pink eye and exposure to parasites will reduce calf weaning weights.
You will lose 30 to 70 pounds of weaning weight for every calf that has pink eye.
Wet weather has increased parasite exposure for calves. Parasite contamination decreases calf grazing. This lowers dry matter intake and the nutrient use efficiency, resulting in decreased weaning weight.
For more information on increasing calf weaning weights and other management practices to increase the bottom line, contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service, or visit our Web page at: http://ces.ca.uky.edu/boyle.
Jerry Little, County Extension Agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources.