The long, wet and sometimes cold winter has left many cows in less-than-desirable body condition during this spring calving season. Lower body condition at calving equates to a longer time interval until the cows return to heat cycles to have a chance to rebreed. One management strategy that offers a small amount of relief from this situation is called “short-term calf removal.”
Short-term calf removal is the term that describes the temporary physical separation of the calf from its mother. This removes the nursing stimulus from the cow for about 2 days. Removing the suckling stimulus can encourage a few cows to start having estrus cycles a few days sooner than otherwise would occur. Removal of calves for 48 hours has shown to improve rebreeding rates of moderately conditioned (Body Condition Score 4 to 5) cows by 4-8%. This improvement, although seemingly small in magnitude, is substantial compared to the out-of-pocket investment.
Short-term calf removal can be used at the first of the breeding season or in the middle or both depending on the labor situation. Do not expect short term calf removal to replace normal good nutritional management. Short term calf removal is not a powerful enough stimulus to "jump start" very thin cows.
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