Weaning Calves on the Farm

– Steven C. Loerch, Professor, OSU Animal Sciences Dept.

Weaning, marketing, and starting calves in a feedlot, combine to be the most stressful events in the life of a calf. When these stressors occur in a matter of days, you are asking for trouble. Calves are the most susceptible to shipping fever (Bovine Respiratory Disease) when they are 6-8 months of age. Earlier in life, calves are protected from disease by maternal antibodies from colostrum. When calves are yearlings, they have a fully developed immune system and are better able to respond to a disease challenge.

So what do we typically do as beef producers? We take a 7-month old calf when it is most susceptible to disease and we put a whole bunch of stress on it. Weaning, trucking, vaccination, no feed, no water, crowding, co-mingling, new pathogens, new source of feed, and new source of water. This is a wreck waiting to happen and it often does. Continue reading