Video: How to weigh calves using a weigh-band and the correct weaning process

In our final instalment of the ‘Calf Health and Management Series’, as part of the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme, we will look at how to monitor performance through the calf-rearing phase, while also touching on the correct weaning procedure.

Weaning calves based on their body weight will help ensure a uniform group of calves at weaning.

In addition to this, it also means that post-weaning management will be much easier. Therefore, regular weighing must be carried out through this period.

Calibrated weighing scales offer the most accurate and simplest method (if set up correctly in a race or crush) to measure body weight. However, they may not be present on every farm. If this is the case, a weigh-band is an alternative and cheaper option.

Heart girth is closely correlated with weight, so measuring heart girth in centimeters – using a weigh-band – will provide reliable measurements.

In the video (below), Volac’s Liam Gannon brings us through a quick tutorial of how to weigh a calf using a weigh-band. Liam also talks about the correct weaning process, and how weaning for weight rather than age is the correct practice.

To use a weigh-band correctly, the calf should be restrained securely. The weigh-band should be placed over the animal’s back just behind the front legs.

From here, the band can be pulled under the animal’s belly using a reaching hook, before reading the animal’s weight by lining up the reading line with the weigh-band scale; care should be taken not to over tighten the weigh-band and it should just flatten the hair.

“You don’t have to weigh all the calves – only 10% – and that will train your eye on how the other calves are doing.

“A lot of farmers will group calves according to size, but if your plan is to wean calves at eight weeks – rather than wean by eight weeks or by the level of meal they are taking in, ideally the proper way to wean calves is wean for weight.

“Basically, calves should double their birth weight at eight-to-10 weeks-of-age. If you’re looking at 40kg at birth, for most beef calves, you’re looking at 85-90kg at weaning.”

Calves can be fed once-a-day (OAD), as part of a weaning strategy to encourage dry feed intake, from 28 days-of-age (providing they are eating enough solid feed to constitute a second feed). If feeding OAD, offer a maximum of 3L per feed with 200g of powder per litre of mixed milk (600g milk powder per feed).

Part 1: Video series: The complete guide to buying and rearing dairy-beef calves
Part 2: Video: What can I pay for dairy-beef calves?
Part 3: Video: What questions should I ask dairy farmers when sourcing dairy-beef calves?
Part 4: The importance of choosing dairy calves with the right genetics for beef production
Part 5: Video: How to examine the calf prior to purchase for dairy-beef systems
Part 6: Video: The correct housing environment for calves is crucial for top performance
Part 7: Video: How to manage the dairy calf on arrival to the beef farm
Part 8: Video: What to look for in a quality milk replacer
Part 9: Video: How to mix milk replacer and the correct rate to feed
Part 10: Video: How to clean feeding equipment thoroughly to avoid the build up of bacteria
Part 11: Video: Calf disease and how vaccination can play an important role against this