Rings: An easier way to wean


In:The Land

For 21 years, EasyWean weaning rings have been used by Australian graziers to improve productivity and efficiency.

In 1999, holistic management educator and grazier Brian Marshall learned of the nosering and the advantages offered 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,” EasyWean business director Gillian Stephens 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 animal welfare.”

It has been widely confirmed that stress has a detrimental effect on livestock productivity. One of the most stressful times for cattle is during weaning.

As such, any measure which alleviates or minimizes stress is to the benefit of the producer and helps reduce weight loss.

The most common method of weaning is complete separation of cows and calves, which leads to the stress of nutritional changes as well as a change in the physical and social environment.

EasyWean provides an alternative to this practice, by allowing the calf to stay with its mother and mob while being weaned.

“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,” Gillian explained.

The ring needs to be left in the nose for four to six weeks. They’re easily fitted and removed. They’re also reusable.

At the average weaning age of seven months, Gillian says, milk loss only has about a l0pc 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.

The stress releases hormones into the system, she continued, which causes cattle to become prone to physical illness. As a result, reconditioning is often required, which can be 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 4pc to 24pc 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,” she said.

“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. As such, low stress weaning is key to quality beef production.

“EasyWean also allows weaned calves to learn herd behaviour 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,” Gillian said.

Weaning calves with EasyWean next to their mothers also enables glaziers to manage their land more effectively.

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 says 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,” she said.

“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.”