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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Improving cow herd production through early weaning

Authors
item Waterman, Richard
item Endecott, Rachel - MT STATE UNIV. EXTENSION
item Paterson, John - MT STATE UNIV. EXTENSION
item Geary, Thomas

Submitted to: Nutrition Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 10, 2007
Publication Date: April 10, 2007
Citation: Waterman, R.C., Endecott, R.L., Paterson, J.A., Geary, T.W. 2007. Improving cow herd production through early weaning. Nutrition Conference Proceedings Bozeman, MT. April 2007. (Proceedings published on CD).

Interpretive Summary: Early weaning, in spring calving production systems, has intrigued many producers to consider this alternative management practice especially during extended droughts and as a tool to promote stayability within a cow herd for young developing cows. The first objective of this study was to evaluate performance and cost of production of early-weaned (EW) calves (approximately 80 d of age) fed one of two diets (Diets were isonitrogenous and isocaloric but differed in ruminal degradable and undegradable protein (1) a 33:67 forage:concentrate diet containing 17.5 % CP (31 % RUP) and 0.82 Mcal of NEm/lb (EW-RDP); (2) a 33:67 forage:concentrate diet containing 17.5 % CP (43 % RUP) and 0.83 Mcal of NEm/lb (EW-RUP), respectively) compared to normal weaned (NW) calves (approximately 215 d of age). The second objective was to evaluate cow performance and reproductive efficiency resulting from early weaning. Calves were stratified within breed by age, days old, and calf sex, and were assigned within strata to one of three weaning treatments (two early weaning treatments and normal weaning). Calf weights within cow age were similar at time of early weaning for all treatments. At the time of normal weaning, BW was heavier for EW vs. NW calves (heifers and steers); however no differences were observed between calves receiving early weaning treatments. Interestingly, calves from younger cows experienced the greatest weight change from early weaning to normal weaning. As might be expected, production costs for early weaned calves exceeded cost incurred for calves left on their dams thru normal weaning. This additional cost may be recaptured through cow performance especially in younger aged cows. Cows were stratified within breed by age, postpartum interval, and calf sex, and were assigned within strata to one of two weaning treatments (early and normal weaned). Cows receiving the early weaning treatments had calves permanently removed at the start of the breeding season. Cows receiving normal weaning (NW) were suckled by calves until weaning at approximately 215 d of age. Cow pregnancy rates from AI were higher for early weaned cows (63%) compared to normal weaned cows (54%). Likewise, overall breeding season pregnancy rates were higher for early weaned cows (95%) compared to normal weaned cows (91%). This study demonstrates that early weaning may be an effective management option when forage is limited or removal of production pressures from young cows is desired; however, the additional calf value alone was not enough to overcome cost of EW diets.

Technical Abstract: Early weaning, in spring calving production systems, has intrigued many producers to consider this alternative management practice especially during extended droughts and as a tool to promote stayability within a cow herd for young developing cows. The first objective of this study was to evaluate performance and cost of production of early-weaned (EW) calves (approximately 80 d of age) fed one of two diets (Diets were isonitrogenous and isocaloric but differed in ruminal degradable and undegradable protein (1) a 33:67 forage:concentrate diet containing 17.5 % CP (31 % RUP) and 0.82 Mcal of NEm/lb (EW-RDP); (2) a 33:67 forage:concentrate diet containing 17.5 % CP (43 % RUP) and 0.83 Mcal of NEm/lb (EW-RUP), respectively) compared to normal weaned (NW) calves (approximately 215 d of age). The second objective was to evaluate cow performance and reproductive efficiency resulting from early weaning. Calves were stratified within breed by age, days old, and calf sex, and were assigned within strata to one of three weaning treatments (two early weaning treatments and normal weaning). Calf weights within cow age were similar at time of early weaning for all treatments. At the time of normal weaning, BW was heavier for EW vs. NW calves (heifers and steers); however no differences were observed between calves receiving early weaning treatments. Interestingly, calves from younger cows experienced the greatest weight change from early weaning to normal weaning. As might be expected, production costs for early weaned calves exceeded cost incurred for calves left on their dams thru normal weaning. This additional cost may be recaptured through cow performance especially in younger aged cows. Cows were stratified within breed by age, postpartum interval, and calf sex, and were assigned within strata to one of two weaning treatments (early and normal weaned). Cows receiving the early weaning treatments had calves permanently removed at the start of the breeding season. Cows receiving normal weaning (NW) were suckled by calves until weaning at approximately 215 d of age. Cow pregnancy rates from AI were higher for early weaned cows (63%) compared to normal weaned cows (54%). Likewise, overall breeding season pregnancy rates were higher for early weaned cows (95%) compared to normal weaned cows (91%). This study demonstrates that early weaning may be an effective management option when forage is limited or removal of production pressures from young cows is desired; however, the additional calf value alone was not enough to overcome cost of EW diets.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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