Buyers at southern weaner sales this year showed a clear preference for yard-weaned cattle, but some producers are going a step further and using noserings for a similar result while keeping mother and calf together.
Badly-weaned calves leave the buyer – lotfeeder or finisher – to cope with a stressed animal prone to bawling, weight loss and with a greater susceptibility to sickness.
Weaned calves avoid these behaviours and their costs, with producers willing to pay more for a “well weaned calf”.
Holistic management educator, Brian Marshall, “Tara”, Guyra, introduced the concept to Australia in 1997, and uses it in his 600-head herd.
The spiked noserings are designed to get the cows themselves to stop calves drinking.
Mr Marshall will no longer buy “snap weaned” calves – those taken straight from mother and put on a truck.
“The premium I am prepared to pay for a well-weaned calf is more than justified by the savings on weight loss, feed, fencing repairs and possible medication,” Mr Marshall said.
He puts the bright orange plastic anti-suck devices on his weaners for a minimum of two weeks and as long as six weeks before sale day.
In that time the calf is weaned from its mother without the added stress of separation.
“This two step weaning process is the no-stress, quiet alternative to yard weaning,” Mr Marshall said.
The nosering is fitted to the calf which is then weaned next to its mother in the paddock, before removing the ring and separating the cow and calf.
If the breeder
elects to retain weaners, there is no need to separate until other management objectives require the weaners to be in another mob.
Mr Marshall said from his observation retained heifers were best left to grow up with their mothers in the herd.
“This decision is potentially a new paradigm, and is dependent on scale and joining strategies,” Mr Marshall said.
The concept was pioneered in South Africa, where more than 100 000 rings a year are sold.
The rings are being used by graziers as far afield as Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
Customers range from hobby farmers or those in closely settled areas wanting to stop calves bawling, through to extensive operations which regard them as an easy way to manage weaning and minimise the set-back.
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