Cows/Cattle/Calves

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QUESTION: we have couple of calves they are about 4.5 months old they are really healthy big and in good shape, i'm thinking about weaning them. and put them on a lush green pasture just to give the cows a break before we go into the winter so i was wondering is that ok to do at that age or thats early. and if its ok what should be the process, should i just move them to the other pasture and give them dry food or whats should i do. thank you so much and GOD Bless

ANSWER: Hello,

It's certainly not too early to put them on pasture! I would say it is too early if they were less than a couple months old, but at that age they will be fine.

Depending on your level of pasture management, you could try rotationally grazing them, but do so after they've been trained to the hot-wire. Otherwise, let them graze a particular pasture you have set out for them, string a hot-wire near to where you want to supplement them with some creep-feed (like as a fence with an opening to where they can go in and out without getting zapped) and keep an eye on them and the fence. But only do the hot-wire training if you have future plans for putting them in a pasture where you are grazing using hot-wire. If you are not, don't bother.

Whether you want to supplement them with grain or cubes is up to you. Just ask yourself if it's needed because pasture quality isn't where it's at, do the calves need it to gain more weight (you did say they are big soggy calves, which is really great to hear), is it to transition them from off mom and continue creep feed onto pasture, etc. If the pasture is lush, as you say, and at a good forage density to sustain a some weaned calves for the next couple months, then supplements aren't really necessary. Just water and a trace mineral block will do them fine. But, as I said, if the calves were on creep-feed whilst also on mom, you might want to continue it. If, though, the calves have been on mom and just pasture with no creep, then it's not worth starting them on dry feed unless, as I mentioned, your main feed source is lacking in nutrients that can be supplied with alfalfa cubes or some grain. Or, if your goal is to finish the calves in a year on grain for slaughter, now would be good to start them on it--just a little at a time--so that they know what it is and it's not going to be a challenge when they start to get bunk-broke (jargon for trained to eat out of the feed bunk) during the first transition into the finishing phase. You just need to start them on less than 1 percent of their body weight per day.

Otherwise, you sound like you're on the right track and doing very well. Keep it up!!

Take care,

-Karin

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: thank you so much for your help Karin, we are keeping the bull and heifers as replacement, not for slaughtering tho. so is there anything i can do diff. thank you again and GOD Bless

Answer
Not much different, just raise your bull and heifers like you're doing with your cows. You want both to grow in muscle and bone, not fat, so whatever diet that is local to your area that is not too high in energy (carbohydrates, like grain) but a good source of protein and other essential nutrients will be fine, and that includes pasture, trace mineral and some cubes if need be. If they're just on pasture, that's great. Just monitor for weight gain and body condition. At that age, a growing calf at that weight needs around 14 percent crude protein (it gets less as they get heavier; by the time they're around 1000 pounds it's more around 10 percent CP), so if the pasture's not enough for protein, some alfalfa or range cubes will help with that. You'd feed as much cubes as you would grain, so around 1 percent of their body weight as-fed.

Good luck, take care, and you're welcome!

-Karin

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Karin L

Expertise

Forage-Beef Extension Specialist. Knowledge in almost everything to do with beef and dairy cattle. Strong points include forage production, pasture and rangeland management, grazing management, breeding/calving/weaning, cattle genetics, breeds, feeding and nutrition, starting-up, and most physiological questions. I AM NOT A BOVINE VETERINARIAN; so please any questions that concern serious health of your cattle must be taken to your local large animal veterinarian.

Experience

Part of a farm family that bought, raised, and sold stocker/backgrounder steers; assisted with health management, handling, feeding, pasture management, and forage production. Also worked at local mixed-practice veterinary clinic. Experience with cattle included breeding soundness exams on bulls, castration, fixing prolapses, preg-checking, C-sections, calf pulling, vaccinations, etc. Worked at a local farm and ranch supply store selling medications and feed for livestock. Research assistant for the University of Alberta with range health assessments, and helping with various rangeland research projects. Always learning and gaining more experience as time goes on.

Publications
Alberta Farm Express Agri-News and Call of the Land (Alberta Agriculture)

Education/Credentials
BSc in Agriculture (Animal Science Major) @ University of Alberta, June 2015 graduate, but started studies in 2005. An Sci degree allowed me to specialize and gain significant knowledge in beef & dairy cattle production,animal behaviour and reproduction, ruminant nutrition, forage production/management, rangeland and pasture management & ecology, and plant identification.

Past/Present Clients
Various eef and forage producers in Alberta, CAN

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