Separation Easier with Noserings

For most cattle producers, weaning is about bellowing cattle, stressed fences and loss of condition.

But not for New England grazier Christopher Wright who during this year’s weaning recorded an average weight gain of 0.64kg a day in his calves.

Nor does the normal practices of weaning – forced separation between cows and calves – hold true for Mr Wright.

Instead, he uses spiked EasyWean® noserings, a South African invention that has become increasingly popular there and in Australia since their introduction in 1997.

The spiked ring interferes with a calf’s ability to suckle it mother.
QCL article
Mr Wright’s observation is that despite the potential of the spikes to jab the cow, the rings work by preventing the calf getting its tongue around the teat.

Both yard weaning and EasyWean® noserings succeed in turning off the milk supply.

The critical difference, Mr Wright believes, is that the EasyWean process doesn’t break the maternal link between cow and calf and therefore doesn’t create enormous distress in a highly social animal.

Nor does EasyWean® thrust the calf onto a new diet at the height of its distress as yard weaning does.

“Calves might still be sucking at their mothers at weaning age but by then it’s out of habit rather than necessity,” Mr Wright said.

“The rings just quietly break that habit without suddenly breaking the maternal link. The cows immediately begin to increase bodyweight because they no longer have to produce milk and they aren’t suffering the stress that goes with losing their calves. And the calves are obviously gaining weight at the same time.”

The Wrights’ calves only require a 13-18 day weaning, which is enough to remove their dependence on their mothers before they are sold onto a backgrounder.

For Mr Wright, who with wife Margot runs a 880ha property, using the EasyWean® process to take the stress out of weaning has simultaneously lowered costs, increased productivity and halted environmental damage by fence-patrolling cattle.

When he initiated the weaning process in mid-May, by putting the rings on the calves when his rotationally-grazed herd passed the yards, the calves went over the scales at an average 301kg curfew weight.

Stress-free weaning articleWhen he took the rings out last week, 13 days later, the calves weighed an average 309kg, translating to a 0.64kg daily weight gain over 13 days. Last year his calves gained 0.6kg per day over 18 days.

Mr Wright, who has just started his “sixth passive weaning”, said at $8 each, the upfront cost of the rings could seem prohibitive.

“But when you amortise the cost over the life of a ring, you’re down to a couple of dollars per weaning,” he said. “In the last couple of years we’ve only lost two rings out of the 250 we put in.”

Mr Wright said the cost of the EasyWean® process was also considerably cheaper than yard weaning. “It takes two of us a day to pregnancy test 280 breeders and put the EasyWean® rings into 250 weaners,” he said.

“Some of the figures I’ve seen for yard weaning put the costs at somewhere between $14-$20 a head and I don’t know of anyone who records weight gain in the calves during the process. Usually it’s the opposite.”

New England grazier Christopher Wright opted for the energy-efficient EasyWean® process after a trial six years ago in which he used EasyWean® rings in 180 calves and weaned another 20 by forced separation. The calves were weighed before the trial and weighed afterwards. On average, those with noserings gained weight while those without rings lost about 20kg.