Minimise weaning stress

minimise weaning stressFOR twenty years, EasyWean weaning rings have been used by Australian graziers to improve productivity and efficiency says business director Gillian Stephens. Gillian said it was in 1999 when 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 striving for best practice in terms of welfare for their animals.”

EasyWean helps cows

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 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.”

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.

“What’s 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.”

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 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 allows graziers to manage their land more effectively.

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.