Best time of year and age to wean calves?

Asked September 2, 2013, 11:10 PM EDT

At what time of year and what age is it best to wean calves?

Clermont County Ohio

1 Response

Dr. Tom Turner gave the following reasons to wait until at least 205 days of age before weaning.

10 Reasons to Wait for 205 Days before Weaning!

  • Number 10: Calves that are weaned later in life are less likely to grade "choice," making them more attractive to the "high yield" type markets.
  • Number 9: Weaning at seven months instead of weaning at two to four months keeps the stocking rates of pastures down, thus eliminating the need for carrying more cows.
  • Number 8: Weaning at seven months allows the calf to be hungry due to declining milk production by the mother, thus encouraging calves to consume more creep-feed.
  • Number 7: Weaning later will reduce early calf growth, thus allowing for more "compensatory" gain in the feedlot.
  • Number 6: Weaning later keeps cows thinner and more able to slip through gates and fences.
  • Number 5: Later-weaned calves will weigh less, and as a result can be marketed later with everyone else's calves.
  • Number 4: Later-weaned calves will weigh less and thus should command more cents per pound than their heavier contemporaries.
  • Number 3: Later-weaned calves can be creep-fed to boost weaning weights. Since the feed conversion of creep-feed is not very good, later weaning utilizes more cheap Ohio corn.
  • Number 2: Later weaning allows open cows to be culled in the fall with everyone else's open cows.
  • Number 1: Lactating cows require as much as two-thirds more feed than dry, gestating cows. Weaning at 205 days will eliminate hay if you have an excess.
Early weaning before 205 days can work but has not been popular lately due to the cost of corn over the past few years. Ohio State is currently doing some work to keep calves on the cow much longer than 205 days, but this work is still in the research phase.

When you are going to wean, make sure you have good weather. Here is an abstract of an OSU study that used pasture weaning:
http://pas.fass.org/content/23/6/637.abstract.

You are welcome to contact me if you have further questions:
Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist, boyles.4@osu.edu