To early wean or not? and other reproduction questions

on 17th February 2024

This week has seen us pull the last of our weaners off in a move that is something of an experiment. With green grass in abundance, and an average weight around the 180kg mark you could be forgiven for asking why.

When, at the end of October, the rainfall records showed we had experienced the driest first ten months on record and calving cows were showing the effects , we threw the switch on our early weaning plans . Something we have done before,  and know we can do well. Fortunately the rain started here in early November and has continued through, so the urgency of that decision dissipated.

Still, I had a nagging question of why not, and after talking to a few other studs in southern areas who regularly early wean have concluded that we really should test the theory. Why?

  • If we do an exceptional job of conditioning these calves (gut and brain) earlier, I hope it will have a beneficial effect on their constitution long term.
  • We have access to good silage and nutritional expertise to ensure the best possible result.
  • Calves will go out onto good feed after the six week weaning process.
  • We will use less feed overall.
  • Our cow mobs are joined up (bulls out in mid Jan) and big mobs of dry cows moving through paddocks will certainly help the soil and grass.
  • We have a track record that shows we can look after even the smallest calves (previously down to 50kg, but this year the lightest is 70kg) and get them up to that critical 180kg weight where they can look after themselves.

The real proof of concept will come in twelve months time when we analyse the performance of this year’s weaners (and to some extent their dams). Early results are promising with the first tranch of 600 averaging 1.6kg/day.



What Makes us Head Down the E.T. Road in 2024?

Last week we utilised the services of Amelia Rentz and Peter Atkinson from The Repro Group to collect for an embryo transfer program we’ll be embarking on later in the year. Although we annually do an A.I. program we have previously only dabbled in E.T. So why the change of heart? Primarily as we look to expand our herd size we seek to do it without losing any impetus in herd improvement, but secondly the disease concerns of last year (foot and mouth especially ) convinced us to store away more genetics as a little insurance policy against a worst case scenario.