Fenceline weaning (FW)

The practice whereby cows are removed from their calves but the calves are allowed to see, hear and smell their dams from the pasture on the opposite side of the fence – is an on-the-farm method of weaning that makes a stressful situation less stressful for man and beast. Physical contact may be possible but suckling is prohibited.

The fencing separating the pastures must be sufficient to prevent calves from nursing and keep the cows and calves permanently separated. Ideally, the calves remain in the pasture occupied by the pairs prior to weaning and the cows are moved to an adjoining pasture. This eliminates some stress on the calves brought on by a change in environment and new feed and water sources.

University researchers in California, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota and Virginia have evaluated the effects of FW on performance, health and stress-indicating blood parameters. They learned that daily gain in FW calves was equal to, and in some studies greater than, gain in calves weaned by traditional abrupt separation.

What’s more, treatment for respiratory disease in truck-weaned and drylot-weaned calves was 2-2.5 times greater than treatment in FW calves in the Ohio study but not different in other studies. Meanwhile, blood protein and enzyme measurements indicate FW may be less stressful than traditional weaning. In fact, several reports indicate FW calves spent less time walking and bawling and more time eating during the first few days following separation from their dams.

A second weaning technique, known as two-stage weaning, was evaluated in several of the studies. This method involves the use of plastic anti-suckling devices or nose flaps, which are inserted into the nostrils of calves. The device prevents suckling but allows the calf to graze and have direct physical contact with the dam. Five to 10 days after insertion, the device is removed and the calf permanently separated from its mother.

Overall acceptability of the anti-suckling device method was less than FW primarily because of the extra labor associated with two trips through the chute to insert and remove the device.

FW is a humane and practical weaning method that minimizes stress and allows calves to efficiently gain weight. Supplemental feeding of calves during the weaning process will enhance performance.

To see the research reports on this topic, go to:

Grazing implants >>

Grazing implants & finishing performance

Feedyards often prefer that feeder cattle come off pasture without being implanted, even discounting feeders implanted while on pasture. Such discrimination may not be warranted, according to Oklahoma State University beef researchers who reported that steers implanted with a combination implant while grazing winter wheat pasture performed in the feedlot at the same level as did steers not implanted during the grazing period.

During grazing, 193 fall-weaned Angus steer calves averaging 495 lbs. grazed winter wheat pastures during the fall, winter and spring for 148 days. Prior to grazing, half the steers were implanted with Component TE-G with Tylan; the other half were not implanted. Upon arrival at the feedlot, all steers were processed and implanted with Component TE-S with Tylan and fed in the same pen for 130 days.

While on pasture, the implanted steers gained 35 lbs. more than the non-implanted steers with this difference being reflected in feedlot arrival and harvest weight. In the feedlot, pasture implanted steers gained similarly compared to the steers not implanted while on pasture (4.37 vs. 4.24 lbs./day, respectively). Harvest (1,388 vs. 1,334 lbs.) and carcass (852 vs. 819 lbs) weights were greater for steers implanted both on pasture and in the feedlot.

Marbling score wasn’t affected by pasture implant. Both pasture implant groups had an average marbling score of small30. Nor was overall USDA Quality Grade affected by pasture implant, and 7% of both groups graded premium Choice.

To see the research reports on this topic, go to: