With high beef cattle prices, livestock producers should add all the weaning weight possible to calves. Producers can increase calf weaning weight by properly using growth-promoting implants, rotational grazing and creep-feeding and reducing calves’ exposure to parasites.
Using an unapproved implant or implanting more than once with an approved product can cause latter reproductive problems in heifer calves you may want to keep as replacement cows.
By the time calves are three to four months old, the majority of their nutrients should come from something other than their mother’s milk. Rotation will keep pasture in front of the calf fresh and vegetative at all times. This will increase both pasture digestibility and calf rate of gain.
Another way to increase weaning weight is to creep-feed by using concentrates to supply extra nutrition to calves. However, the most economical method is to creep-feed for the short term, the last 45 days prior to weaning. This will stimulate growth almost as much as season-long creep-feeding. The latter provides a low conversion of feed to additional gain for calves on grass-legume pastures.
When drought occurs and pasture is short but good quality, a limit-feed, high-energy creep-feed is preferred. Salt is a good method to control creep-feed intake.
Pink eye and exposure to parasites will reduce calf weaning weights. Producers will lose 30 to 70 pounds of weaning weight for every calf that has pink eye.
Parasite contamination decreases calf grazing. It lowers dry matter intake and the nutrient use efficiency, resulting in decreased weaning weight.
For more information about increasing calf weaning weights and other management practices to increase the bottom line, call the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service office at (859) 236-4484
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.