Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Weaning Calves to Saleyards

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Weaning Calves to Saleyards

Article excerpt

Byline: David Thomson, North Coast LHPA district vet

CALF weaning is essential for productivity in beef-breeding herds. On the North Coast it is common for calves to be weaned directly off the cows to saleyards at six to nine months of age.

This practice helps to maximise productivity and profitability and greatly simplifies overall breeder herd management. It is particularly practical when producers are not well placed to provide full-time close supervision of this relatively vulnerable class of livestock, eg. when they are engaged in full-time off-farm work.

Removal of calves directly to saleyards enables larger breeder herd numbers to be maintained on given land areas, facilitates higher reproductive rates, and substantially reduces breeder herd input costs and management complexity.

Weaning calves directly to the care of specialised producers through saleyards can also facili- tate better animal welfare and productivity outcomes because they may receive more dedicated attention. It further permits specialised growers, backgrounders and finishers to enhance their respective productivity and profitability by simplifying operations.

It is, however, a stressful period for young calves. If not appropriately managed, productivity can be constrained and sub-optimal. Calves are more susceptible to diseases and parasite infestations at weaning because of their semi-mature stage of development and the direct and indirect effects of stress on their immune systems.

It is, therefore, a critical time for diligent attention to husbandry, animal welfare and nutritional needs of weaners and yearlings and it generally pays premium dividends for the lifelong productivity of cattle.

If cattle receive a major growth rate setback at a young age due to inadequate nutrition or disease (usually before they reach live bodyweight of 250a300kg, depending on breed type), they are likely to subsequently suffer long-term limitation to rates of growth and weight gain.

They frequently will not attain high maximum mature body size relative to their genetic potential or meet the best domestic or export meat quality standards. …

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