Can I wean 90-day-old calves that weigh 300 pounds?

The answer is yes. Dry weather has made this – and variations – the question of the day. In an ideal world, mother and calf should enjoy green pastures from birth until weaning at about 7 months of age. The typical weaning age is 192 days for producers in the Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System (CHAPS) program. However, some calves are weighed along with the administration of preweaning vaccinations prior to the actual weaning day, so the average age at weaning could be a few days older. The CHAPS profile shows steers weigh 566 pounds, heifers 535 pounds and bulls 595 pounds, or an average of 553 pounds for all the calves. This translates to an average daily gain of 2.45 pounds. These values are good targets for producers when the year is average. But weather does not always cooperate, and when grass gets short, the calves may very well need to be pulled off the cows prior to reaching these goals. In fact, if one sits in on the local cattle sales this time of year, the cow-calf pairs often are split, with the cows going one direction and the calves another. In North Dakota, and many of the surrounding states, calving generally starts around March 10 to 17, with the average start on March 13. Most herds reach the calving halfway point around April 1 to 8, or on average, April 4. So, in actuality, by the end of June, at least half the calves should be 90-plus days old. Using an average birth weight of 83 pounds, plus 90 days of growth at 2.45 pounds p

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2 thoughts on “Can I wean 90-day-old calves that weigh 300 pounds?

  1. Program sated in the article.
    “Calves should be supplied a highly palatable ration that is high in protein, available energy, vitamins and minerals.
    • Starter rations should be available to the calves during a two- to three-week adjustment period before they are weaned.
    • Calf vaccinations should be administered at the beginning of the adjustment period (or sooner). Injections of vitamins A and D also should be given at this time.”

    In 2001, as the drought in the southern plains became brutal, I fence line weaned my calves early. I had been fence line waning several years on grass and did so with giving my calves no preweaning vaccinations. Doing this I had no sick calves to doctor. My calving began April 20. The 20th of August I weaned the older calves on grass with no shots and no special feed. They never looked back, gaining from day one. No sick calves. The first week in September I weaned the younger calve. No sickness. My weaning procedure always began with waiting until the calves had sucked their mothers and eaten some grass before gathering at about 9:00. I used good stockmanship while sorting and turned the calves out with a full belly. Calves are resilient if handled as naturally as possible. They had no strange foods causing rumen stress.

  2. We weaned calves ranging in age from 80 to 120 days several years ago by gradually increasing separation from cows. Started with a 12-hour separation before allowing to nurse, then 24 hours, 36 hours, and 48 hours. By then, calves were readily consuming feed and continued to grow without problems.

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