It’s time again for producers to think about weaning their fall calves if they have not already done so. MU Extension Livestock Specialist Patrick Davis says there are a few things farmers need to take into consideration.

Davis also says calves need to be processed and vaccinated correctly which usually takes place prior to weaning. He also suggests these calves be put on a pre-conditioning program as soon as possible.

To hear more from MU Extension Livestock Specialist Patrick Davis and KMZU’s Mandy Young click below:

PatrickDavis-Fall Weaning


Things To Do At Fall Calf Weaning Time

(Warrensburg, MO)     It is the time of year when you are either starting to wean your fall calves or thinking about weaning your fall calves. Things to do at weaning time: evaluate pregnancy status and body condition score of cows, process and vaccinate calves, and put calves on a preconditioning program so that they are ready to market in 45 days. Now let’s look at these areas more in depth.

Important things that a cow needs to do each year is become pregnant, raise a calf and do it as efficiently as possible without losing too much body condition. Therefore, body condition score and pregnancy status should be evaluated at weaning time. If a cow comes up not pregnant during weaning time pregnancy examination then the decisions needs to be made to cull her or roll her into the spring calving herd. I would draw on prior experience with the cow in the decision. If this is her first time to not be pregnant she may deserve a second chance, but if this is her second time then it is probably time to cull her. However, if resources are not available to carry this cow for an extra 6 months to a year without her producing any income then she probably needs to be culled. Also, an easy thing to do at weaning time while running the cows through the shute is to evaluate body condition score and weight of the cow and look at that in relation to the weaning weight of the calf. Evaluation of body condition score at weaning time allows you to determine what steps you will take to get that cow to a targeted body condition score of 6 (identifies by good smooth appearance throughout) before the next calving season which should lead to optimum reproductive and production efficiency during the next production cycle. Cows that produce a heavy calf at weaning in relation to condition and weight should be maintained while cows that produce a small calf at weaning in relation to condition and weight should be considered for culling.

The vaccination and processing part of weaning actually should begin pre-weaning. Calves need to be vaccinated for IBR, PI-3, BVD, BRSV, Pasteurella, Haemophilus Somnus, and Blackleg 7-way pr-weaning. Also, calves need to be treated for internal and external parasites pre-weaning. Heifers retained in the herd may be vaccinated for brucellosis within 4 to 11 months of age by a veterinarian. The rest of the processing includes identification, castration and dehorning as needed. When identifying a calf, provide identification that will follow the calf the rest of its life and aid in record keeping. This is useful in making management decisions that improve the performance and quality of the herd. Also, with the rise in livestock thefts your animal identification may need to include something that identifies your cattle from other farms or ranches cattle in the case of theft like a farm or ranch brand. Castrate bull calves as soon as possible after birth to minimize stress. Dehorn horned calves as early as possible with optimum time being at a month of age. Consult a veterinarian and develop a plan for processing and vaccination of your cattle.

Calf preconditioning allows the calf to get over weaning stress, get use to a feed bunk and water trough. In the previous paragraph we discussed vaccination and processing components of calf preconditioning and now we will focus on the calf preconditioning diet or ration. One component of preconditioning diet is a supplement which should be corn based with corn and soybean byproducts. To reduce sickness and digestive problems add coccidiostat and ionophore to supplement. Vitamin and mineral levels in the supplement need to meet the calf’s requirements. Hand feed supplement once or twice daily and the calf should have access to the second component of the calf preconditions diet which is high quality hay or pasture. Combination of the two components should meet the animal’s nutrient requirements for 2 to 2.5 pounds of ADG. The third component and most important component of preconditioning diet is a clean water source so the calf does not get dehydrated and it cuts down on sickness.

This preconditioning period should last at least 45 days post weaning. Along with the nutrition, vaccination, and processing part of preconditioning the animal it is important to monitor the health status of the animal during the period. Calves need daily observation for signs of sickness such as lethargy, decreased intake, droopy ears, nasal discharge, and labored breathing. If these signs are noticed the calf needs to be evaluated and treated immediately. Since preconditioned calves will have less risk from a health and management standpoint and need less processing to fit their operation, buyers will pay a premium compared to calves not preconditioned. Preconditioned calves average selling $5 to $6 per cwt. higher than calves not preconditioned.

Hopefully these are some strategies that you can use to improve your cattle operation. If you have questions or need more information contact Dr. Patrick Davis at 660-747-3193 or visit your local Extension Office or get more online at


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