EasyWean – the guaranteed way to save time, money and stress at weaning

queensland country life stress less over weaning article
For twenty-one years, EasyWean weaning rings have been used by Australian graziers to improve productivity and efficiency says business director Gillian Stephens.

In 1999 holistic management educator and grazier Brian Marshall learned of the nosering and the advantages it would offer in reducing the cost from loss of production due to stress. “Brian recognised the benefits it would provide and started manufacturing and selling the noserings in Australia,” she said. “EasyWean is a product created by graziers for graziers who have a passion for improving productivity and are striving for best practice in terms of welfare for their animals.” The weight gain alone justifies the cost many times over.

One of the most stressful times for cattle, in a cow/calf operation, is weaning. Stress, it has been widely confirmed, has a detrimental effect on livestock productivity. For this reason, any measure to alleviate or minimize stress is to the benefit of the producer. The challenge is to wean calves in such a way as to minimize the calves’ weight loss due to stress.
The most common method of weaning used by most cow/calf operators is complete separation of cows and calves. This leads to the stress of nutritional changes due to the cessation of milk consumption, as well as a change in the physical and social environment.
EasyWean provides an alternative to the practice of separating young calves from their mothers by allowing the calf to stay with its mother and mob while being weaned.

EasyWean helps calves

Gillian said at the average weaning age of seven months, milk loss only has about a 10 per cent effect on the weaning weight of calves. “Separation is the major cause of weight loss with calves recorded losing 25-30kgs when moved from their mothers.” She said the stress of being abruptly taken away from the mother releases hormones into the system, which cause cattle to become prone to physical illness, with the resulting reconditioning required becoming a costly and
time-consuming process.

Studies show that behavioural stress responses such as increased vocalization (bawling cattle) and increased walking and pacing, result in increased energy requirements of 4-24% over maintenance requirements.

“What’s also only recently being understood is that marbling in beef isn’t controlled by feedlots in the final months of feeding. It’s linked to feed quality and stress much earlier in the animal’s life. Meat tenderness is negatively affected by animals losing and gaining weight.”

Reducing stress increases profit by increasing production, immune response, weight gain, and carcass quality of the calves.
Gillian said this means that low stress weaning is key to quality beef production, and that a slow more natural weaning, which doesn’t break the cow/calf bond, improves meat quality.

“EasyWean also allows weaned calves to learn herd behavior as they stay with their mothers and the herd instead of being grouped with other calves at weaning time, which can improve some aspects of temperament, plant selection, mothering ability and adaptation.”

She said weaning calves with EasyWean next to their mothers, rather than separating them into two mobs, also enables graziers to manage their land more effectively.

EasyWean helps cows

Many producers think that the impact of weaning stress is not their problem. It is thought that the cost from the stress and subsequent loss of production are to the detriment of the buyer, not the seller. This is true in terms of the health and growth of the calf, but the loss of production of the cow is not taken into consideration.
Stress can affect reproduction and milk production in cattle. When cows are stressed, a variety of mechanisms are triggered which suppress reproductive and maternal performance. This makes weaning stress an issue for the seller too, not just the buyer.
Gillian said a cow’s condition is directly related with her chance of reconceiving in the next mating season. “Cows need a body condition score of three or higher at calving to maximise the chance of getting pregnant again within 75 days. “In Australia’s variable climate a cow feeding her calf may struggle to maintain her body condition. De-stressing the cow by managing when she weans her calf is vital to maximizing conception rates.”

She said in dry seasons, early weaning is recommended to take pressure off cows, and though taking the calf away from its mother early may wean the calf, it can lead to other significant issues. “Weaning the calf next to its mother with the use of an EasyWean weaning ring is an effective tool in controlling the process.”

How EasyWean works

The EasyWean ring is fitted by pushing the lugs into the nose and tightening the stainless-steel bolt and wingnut onto the septum until the ring is tight but can still move up and down easily.

“The ring not only provides a barrier to weaning but also works on the cow. When the calf tries to suckle, the spikes make the cow uncomfortable, so she moves away.” The ring needs to be left in the nose for four to six weeks. To remove it, you catch the calf, undo the wingnut and pop it out. They’re also reusable, so clean the rings, oil the bolts and they’re ready for the next season”.