A MOLONG cattle farmer has advocated the strategy of early weaning for calves after using the measure to minimise feed requirements as he waited for rain to fall and take effect.
Early weaning is taking calves from the cows when they are between three and six months of age.
According to Central Tablelands Local Land Services senior officer Brett Littler, it is the best way to reduce the amount and quality of feed needed for both calf and cow.
It certainly worked for James Morse when he put the method into practice at his Molong property in autumn, describing the results as “a huge success”.
Early weaning allowed us to make the most of the feed we had on hand, and by using small drought feed lot pens, we were able to save our paddocks from overgrazing.Molong farmer James Morse
“We are now keeping some of those early-weaned calves in a feedlot situation to take them through to slaughter weight, which will give us some much needed cash flow,” he said.
“We had done our calculations on how long we could viably feed these stock based on how much hay and grain we had in store.”
“Early weaning allowed us to make the most of the feed we had on hand, and by using small drought feed lot pens, we were able to save our paddocks from overgrazing.”
Mr Morse said a lactating cow requires approximately 60 per cent more feed than a ‘dry’ cow to maintain body weight.
“Whichever way you calculate it, it’s very inefficient to try to feed a calf through a cow and it is always cheaper and better to feed them separately rather than together,” he said.
There are, however, risks with the approach.
Mr Morse warned early weaning required a lot of hands-on management to avoid potential problems such as pink eye and shy feeding.
“There are big animal health issues with early weaning and putting cattle into a confined space to feed them,” he said.
“You need to monitor calves carefully, and you also have to provide the right vitamins and supplements to make sure their diet is not deficient.”
Mr Morse said his property’s pasture is bouncing back after recent rain, creating lucrative opportunities for buying light-weight trade cattle and turning them off at a profit.
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