One management tool for drought-stricken producers to consider is early weaning. Kansas State University Extension Specialists Dale Blasi and Twig Marston note that many producers do not realize they can wean calves more than 90 days old or greater than 200 pounds with minimal complications.
Calves that are fed balanced rations in drylot will weigh similarly to mother-reared calves throughout their lifetime. The specialists offer these points to consider in early weaning decisions:
· Early weaned cow-calf pairs consume approximately 25% less feed than normally weaned pairs.
· Calf performance is not compromised.
· Dry, early gestation beef cows require only 60% of the energy and 50% of the protein of lactating cows.
· Dry cows will consume 30% less forage than lactating cows.
· It is more efficient to feed calves directly than to feed cows to sustain milk production.
· It is much cheaper to maintain or regain cow body condition during the summer and fall months than to attempt to increase cow weights during the winter and spring months. By avoiding thin cows, suboptimal reproductive rates will be avoided.
· Dry cows require 60% less water than lactating cows.
· Young cows (first and second lactation) are the ideal candidates for early weaning. This is because of their additional requirements for growth besides maintenance and lactation.