BEEF Daily

3 Most Important Goals For Bunk Breaking Calves


Pre-conditioning calves adds value; here are three goals to get the best price for weaned calves.

Last weekend we weaned our calves, so, of course, Mother Nature had to reward us with 3 in. of rain on Monday and Tuesday. The resulting muddy lots make for a less than a picture-perfect start to the process of preconditioning those calves. However, our ranch was fortunate in not being in the path of early October's Atlas blizzard a few weeks ago, so we’ll take the rain and just be grateful.

It’s common knowledge that preconditioning calves adds to their value at marketing time. Feedlots will pay more for calves that have been vaccinated, know how to eat, and are already on a ration that will help them perform in the feedlot. Feedlots know that such calves have recovered from the stress of weaning and are ready to put on the pounds.

I recently ran across a great list from Francis L. Fluharty, Ohio State University Extension research scientist, that summarizes several nutritional strategies for receiving and feeding early-weaned calves. The list looks at everything from providing clean water and grass-legume hay, to having mineral blocks available to the calves, to what percentage of nutrients need to be included in the feed ration.

You can read the entire list here.


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One of the main take-home messages of the article for me is contained in the three objectives for feed bunk management and feed intake control. Fluharty lists the following objectives as the most important for early-weaned calves:

1. Maximize animal performance.

2. Minimize digestive disorders.

3. Keep animals consuming a consistent amount of feed.

“Good bunk management increases feed efficiency and lowers cost of gain,” writes Fluharty.

No matter what your current management protocols, there’s always room for improvement in one way or another. Check out the list and review the requirements to best precondition your calves in order to receive the most value on your calf crop.

What are the most important things you do for your early-weaned calves? List your best advice in the comments section below.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 17, 2013

We start our calves on creep 30 days before weaning. Fence wean and they are ready to start on their own.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 17, 2013

We buy a few cottonseed hulls to mix with a little grain for the first couple weeks at weaning. We've had excellent luck getting calves to come to the bunk with this ration.

Briscoe Boy (not verified)
on Oct 17, 2013

We always used good quality oat hay during weaning. Cut the oats when in the early dough stage to have a much green in the stalk as possible, and yet have grain on the stalk. This was the primary reason we cut oat hay every year, but the horses loved it as well.

W.E. (not verified)
on Oct 17, 2013

We use fence-line weaning with no creep, don't need to bunk train, as our steer calves never leave the farm until they are sold as forage-finished beef. Solves a lot of problems from sickness to transportation costs. We do sell registered bulls as well as beef. Some bulls sold for breeding get limited soy hull pellets available locally along with good quality hay during the winter months to satisfy buyers who think bulls should be fleshy. Although the bulls rarely get overly fat on this high-roughage ration, they keep better bloom and condition when the grass isn't green, with no risk of acidosis or founder. Previously trained bulls six months older will quickly teach the newly weaned ones what to do at the bunk.

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What's BEEF Daily?

BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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