How early weaning can help producers manage herds

Dry weather and an overall decline in the nutritional value of native pasture make it challenging for producers to keep their cow herds fed. But early weaning of calves could remedy that, according to researchers at North Dakota State University.

“Early weaning simply means weaning calves at an earlier age to reduce forage usage, while not compromising calf health and performance,” said Janna Block, extension livestock systems specialist at NDSU’s Hettinger Research Extension Center. Block said that the practice “is one of the management decisions that can help reduce pressure on native pastures and extend forage supplies for adult beef cows.”

Dairy calves are often weaned as early as 8 weeks of age. Beef calves can be early weaned successfully from 60 to 150 days of age, the announcement said.

Research shows that early weaned cows will consume as much as 35–45% less forage than normally weaned cow–calf pairs, according to the university.