To help calves get on feed faster and reduce the stress associated with it, North Dakota State University researchers offer these reminders:

· Preconditioning feeds should be palatable, dust-free, and nutritious. Feeds that are unpalatable, dusty or moldy will result in low feed intakes and a poor start for the calves.

· Several management practices can be employed to get calves to eat quickly during backgrounding. Some cattlemen place an older calf or dry cow with the calves in order to train the newly weaned calves. The leader calf or cow knows the location of feed bunks and water in the pen and can train the new cattle to eat and drink a bit sooner.

· Placing feed bunks and waterers along the fence line will help calves find feed and water more quickly because freshly weaned calves tend to pace back and forth along the fence line for a few days following weaning. Allowing waterers to run over for a few days may also help attract calves to water since the sound of running water may be familiar to them.

· Good quality, long-stem grass hay should be fed for the first 4-7 days after calves are weaned. This feedstuff most closely resembles what the calf is used to seeing on pasture. Once calves are accustomed to eating from feed bunks, hay can be ground and mixed in a total mixed ration.

· The receiving ration should be top dressed on the long-stem hay in order to acquaint the cattle with the taste and texture of grains and other ration ingredients. As a general guideline, start out feeding 0.5 to 0.75% of body weight of the receiving ration per day top dressed on the hay.

· Corn silage, haylages and other fermented feed should not be used during the initial receiving period since the fermented smell and flavor of these feeds are not familiar to most calves. Introduce these feeds once calves are acclimated to eating from the feed bunk.