Early weaning calves can save money, improve conception rates, and increase stocking rates.
If you are located close to an urban setting, typically the price of land limits the amount of pasture available for natural grazing, leaving you to supplement with harvested feeds. In our own operation, we feed hay year-round, so early weaning allows us to reduce the amount of feed our cows require to both raise a calf and maintain a proper body condition score. My train of thought has always been “Why feed a calf through the cow when you can just feed the calf?”
For decades, it has been drilled into people that calves should be weaned around 7 months of age. Even all the metrics for EPDs are based around a 205 day weaning However, from my personal experience of early weaning calves for 25 years, I have found that calves who have been eating creep feed for 2-4 weeks can be weaned at 90-120 days with no effects on growth and health of the calf.
Our A.I. Service receives questions all the time about what to do when a cow will not come into heat. In many cases where a cow has an older calf on her, and the cow seems to be declining in weight, I recommend that they wean the calf. This then allows the cow to gain weight and possibly begin estrous cycles.
I can go into all the advantages and disadvantages of early weaning in this blog, but instead, I am attaching a well written and easy to read article by Dr. Rick Raskby, Professor of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Enjoy!