5 tips to make weaning stress free for all

It is essential that suckler farmers plan their weaning strategy in good time to avoid any problems or delays.

With September only around the corner many farmers will be weaning there suckler calves over the next number of week. Here are some tips from Teagasc to make weaning stress free for man and beast

1. Strategy

Teagasc would advise that you need to plan your weaning strategy at least eight weeks in advance of when you intend to sell them to qualify for payment.

2. Health

It is important that your calves are healthy in advance of the weaning period. Making sure that they are free from gut and lung worm is essential. It is vital that you have an adequate dosing strategy in place.

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3. Meal Feeding

Teagasc says creep grazing is something more suckler farmers should be doing as part of the weaning process. It allows you to utilise grass on the farm much more efficiently and improve weaning weights but also helps to weaken the bond between the cow and the calf.

It says this will help reduce the stress at weaning. There are a number of methods used for allowing calves to creep graze ahead of the cows. You can easily raise the electric fence to allow calves creep graze ahead of the cows, while other farmers insert a creep gate to the next field to be grazed and this allows access for the calves to graze ahead of the cows.

Whether creep grazing or not Teagasc says meals must be introduced to calves at least four weeks before weaning and kept fed to them for at least two weeks after weaning. The amount of meal to be fed will depend on the size of calves at weaning and whether the calves are to be sold after weaning or held on the farm.

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4. Castrating

Where calves are going to be castrated, the procedure must be carried out at least four weeks before weaning or at least two weeks after weaning. If you are castrating animals, you need to record the date of castrating on the pre-weaning form.

It is now illegal to castrate an animal over six months of age without veterinary involvement. Where calves over six months of age have been castrated, you may be required to provide evidence that this task was completed by a vet.

5. Wean gradually

Teagasc advises that farmers with more than 10 cows should not wean the entire herd abruptly in the scheme. The recommended weaning procedure for outdoor weaning is as follows:

Calves must be weaned from the cows in at least two separate groups, with each group being removed at a minimum interval of five days. The first group of cows must be removed, allowing their calves to stay with the rest of the herd.

Where possible, cows should be removed to a separate location and be out of sight of the calves during the weaning process. You must record the weaning date of each calf on the post weaning form. Herds with more than 10 cows should, therefore, ensure that there is at least a five-day interval between each weaning group.

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