Late Weaning Creates Better Profits And Smarter Cattle

The Grazier's Art

Lower costs and wiser replacements come from a later-weaning system.

Published on: December 5, 2013

When I suggest late weaning I mean 10 months in heifers and steers and 8 months in bull calves.

Cattle are gregarious animals and as such they have a strong attachment to the herd and learn directly from their mothers. When we change our weaning practices to late weaning they gain in several ways:

  • Become calmer.
  • Develop their rumens better with the help of a little milk from their dams.
  • Learn what to graze and what not to graze.
  • Learn the pecking order of the herd.
  • Adapt better to changes as they can see what the older animals do.
  • Learn to act like cattle.

This practice is linked to the appropriate genetics, as we want cattle that give small amounts of milk at that stage, perhaps two pounds of milk, with the proviso that it has to be very high quality. That means high in protein, butterfat and preferably in A2A2 milk protein.

There is an increase in conversion efficiency of forage to pounds of calf when the milk protein is of the A2A2 type. When this type of protein is digested by the calf, more of it is retained as it curdles faster in the stomach and thereby leaves less to be excreted.

Further, cows that are high milk producers will lose too much body condition to be able to maintain a yearly calving record on this late weaning regime.

Heifers weaned late and with these additions will be hardier, shinier, stronger, calmer, more fertile and have a better immune response.

In turn, they will be better able to teach their offspring where to graze, what to graze, what not to graze and how to behave as cattle. 

After generations of weaning late the herd will be much more hardier and adapted -- even more if we accelerate natural selection without contradicting nature

Many cattlemen practice early weaning, especially when in a drought. But most of the time this can be planned for and the appropriate measures can be in place beforehand. 

By the appropriate measures I do not mean feeding hay but stockpiled forage and this has to be planned and developed with time.