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.CONTACT US FOR YOUNGSTOCK ADVICE
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
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
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?
- J., Heinrichs. 2014. eXtension: Rumen Development in the Dairy Calf. Accessed January 24, 2019. https://articles.extension.org/pages/71110/rumen-development-in-the-dairy-calf
- Terre M., Pedrals E., Dalmau A., Bach A.,. 2013. “What do preweaned and weaned calves need in the diet: a high fibre or forage source?” Journal of Dairy Science 96: 5217-5225 2
- Overvest M.A., Bergeron R., Haley D.B., DeVries T.J. 2016. “Effect of feed type and method of presentation on feeding behaviour, intake and growth of dairy calves fed a high level of milk.” Journal of Dairy Science 99: 317-327
- Jones C., Heinrichs J.,. 2011. Early Weaning Strategies. Accessed January 25, 2019. https://articles.extension.org/pages/10862/early-weaning-strategies#How_Early_Can_Calves_Be_Weaned.3F