With feeder calf prices at all-time highs, it is important to get every pound of gain possible on your nursing calves. It is also important if you are feeding out your own calves, because it will be easier on your cows and result in fewer days on feed for the calves.There are several methods that will help you to get the maximum possible gain out of your calves this summer, and a combination of some or all of them will maximize your gains.
Your cows' body condition is essential to your calves' ability to gain weight while on pasture. Cows that are in good condition will produce more milk than cows that are underweight or overweight, which translates to weaning weight of your calves. Cows that are in good condition will also breed back better and typically have fewer problems calving.
Implanting nursing calves can increase their weaning weight by four to six percent, which is typically an extra 18-20 pounds. Be sure to use implants that are labeled for nursing calves, and be aware that none are labeled for calves under 30 to 45 days of age, depending on the specific implant. Male calves should be implanted at or after castration. Heifers typically have higher response to implants than steers, but heifers that might be kept as breeding replacements should not be implanted.
Creep feeding also increases weaning weights, with results varying based on several factors. Calves will generally gain more weight on high energy diets than on high protein diets but have a higher feed conversion rate on high protein diets. Creep feeding will also take a lot of stress off of your cows, which will improve their body condition scores and reproductive rates. If you are feeding out your calves, it will also be beneficial for you if the calves are already "bunk broke." There are many different options for types of creep feed; it is best to explore different creep feeds and find what is the most economical for your operation.
Deworming will also help with weaning weights. Deworming cows before grass turnout will dramatically reduce parasite buildup on pastures, therefore reducing the amount of parasites available for calves to pick up. They will still probably pick up some parasites, so you should deworm again in the fall, a few weeks before weaning.
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