Ivan Rush: Weaning management & growing heifers | TSLN.com

Ivan Rush: Weaning management & growing heifers

Ivan G. Rush

What about these cattle prices? It seems records continue to be set on feeder and fed cattle. Even though the fed cattle futures are volatile, their upward trend makes me wonder where they will top out.

With packers showing red ink and retail beef trending higher it is certain that these trends will plateau before long and hopefully not nose dive. Lower corn prices and lower numbers of feeder cattle certainly provides optimism for the future.

One of the major differences I see in the feeding industry is the level of investment compared to a couple years ago. With incoming feeder cattle costing over $1,000 and feed still 20-40 percent higher than two years ago; the cow-calf operator can be thankful that feedyards are willing to assume higher risk and lending institutions are willing to assist with much higher investment costs.

I recently read a good research article about weaning devices that are put in the calf’s nose to prevent nursing before being removed from the cow. The idea is that weaning stress would be less than traditional forms of weaning. However, other environment stressors such as separation from the cow, change of forages, creep feed, water, etc., will still occur, just at a later time. It is a good working theory, but does it actually work that way?

Fortunately, researchers at North Dakota State University (NDSU) Hettinger Research and Extension Center conducted a controlled study that evaluated the anti-sucking nose device (Quick Wean made by JDA Livestock Innovation, Saskatoon, Canada). Researchers placed the nostril devices in half of the calves 7 days before weaning and referred to those as a two-phase weaning. The control calves (with no nostril device) ran with the treated calves and their dams and then were weaned conventionally.

Despite small numbers studied (71 head), the researchers compiled a considerable amount of data. Specifically: rectal temperature; plasma haptoglobin; cortisol level; and the number of steps taken 4 days before weaning, the day of weaning and 3, 7, and 10 days after weaning. The research group also conducted an ultrasound on the calves at the day of weaning and 60 days after weaning to assess marbling scores.

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In summary, after 60 days post-weaning, no benefits were observed with the two-step weaning process. However, some minor differences were noted between the two groups at weaning:

• Calves that had the nostril devices walked more than the control calves 7 days before weaning. The researchers felt this was due to the fact they could not consume milk so traveled further for grazing.

• Calves that had the nostril devise walked 3 times further than conventionally weaned calves, up to 3 days after weaning. Although, no difference in distance traveled was observed between the two calf groups by 7 and 10 days post-weaning.

• Ultrasound data did not find any differences in marbling between the two calf groups; however, these measurements were taken at weaning and 60 days later – not at harvest. Some researchers have working theories that marbling at harvest may be regulated according to the level of stress and level of growth following weaning. Solid research data is lacking to support this theory.

What about these cattle prices? It seems records continue to be set on feeder and fed cattle. Even though the fed cattle futures are volatile, their upward trend makes me wonder where they will top out.

With packers showing red ink and retail beef trending higher it is certain that these trends will plateau before long and hopefully not nose dive. Lower corn prices and lower numbers of feeder cattle certainly provides optimism for the future.

One of the major differences I see in the feeding industry is the level of investment compared to a couple years ago. With incoming feeder cattle costing over $1,000 and feed still 20-40 percent higher than two years ago; the cow-calf operator can be thankful that feedyards are willing to assume higher risk and lending institutions are willing to assist with much higher investment costs.

I recently read a good research article about weaning devices that are put in the calf’s nose to prevent nursing before being removed from the cow. The idea is that weaning stress would be less than traditional forms of weaning. However, other environment stressors such as separation from the cow, change of forages, creep feed, water, etc., will still occur, just at a later time. It is a good working theory, but does it actually work that way?

Fortunately, researchers at North Dakota State University (NDSU) Hettinger Research and Extension Center conducted a controlled study that evaluated the anti-sucking nose device (Quick Wean made by JDA Livestock Innovation, Saskatoon, Canada). Researchers placed the nostril devices in half of the calves 7 days before weaning and referred to those as a two-phase weaning. The control calves (with no nostril device) ran with the treated calves and their dams and then were weaned conventionally.

Despite small numbers studied (71 head), the researchers compiled a considerable amount of data. Specifically: rectal temperature; plasma haptoglobin; cortisol level; and the number of steps taken 4 days before weaning, the day of weaning and 3, 7, and 10 days after weaning. The research group also conducted an ultrasound on the calves at the day of weaning and 60 days after weaning to assess marbling scores.

In summary, after 60 days post-weaning, no benefits were observed with the two-step weaning process. However, some minor differences were noted between the two groups at weaning:

• Calves that had the nostril devices walked more than the control calves 7 days before weaning. The researchers felt this was due to the fact they could not consume milk so traveled further for grazing.

• Calves that had the nostril devise walked 3 times further than conventionally weaned calves, up to 3 days after weaning. Although, no difference in distance traveled was observed between the two calf groups by 7 and 10 days post-weaning.

• Ultrasound data did not find any differences in marbling between the two calf groups; however, these measurements were taken at weaning and 60 days later – not at harvest. Some researchers have working theories that marbling at harvest may be regulated according to the level of stress and level of growth following weaning. Solid research data is lacking to support this theory.

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