It’s Youngstock Month: When Should Calves Be Weaned?

Increasing Pellet Intake from 0.1kg to 0.9kg/day can indicate when to wean

Most dairy farmers choose to wean their calves at a specific age, because they have always done this. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS! When calves are weaned is determined by whether or not the rumen has developed enough to cope with solid food. So this is an economic decision based on price of milk replacer, milk and concentrate pellets, which all vary from month to month.


Rumen Development

When calves are born, their guts act a bit like humans BUT after 3 weeks on 0.1-0.5kg/day calf pellets1, they are developing their ruminant-like, 4-stomached gut. It is the presence of solid feeds such as pellets, grasses and dry matter (straw) that influences this development

Rumen development from Dairy eXtension USDA

The calf will alter intake depending on when it is weaned: so work out the cost of this vs. the cost of milk you have available and alter accordingly1

From Dairy eXtension USDA


As long as pellets and forage/fibre are given to a calf, its rumen will develop over the space of 3 weeks or so in order to cope with weaning to solid food. Management afterwards on starter intake amounts will allow calves to “catch up” depending on farm strategy. So weaning should really consider the costs of milk replacer, milk, pellets and forage from month to month.


Where is the Evidence?