Greater Feed Conversion Efficiency with More Gradual Weaning of Intensively-Fed Calves
More evidence that gradual weaning is preferred for calves on an intensive-feeding program is reported by the Nurture Research Center run by Provimi North America.
Calves in the study were fed selected levels of milk replacer varying from a low of 1.4 lbs/day to a high of 2.2 lbs/day. They had weaning programs as short as 7 days and as long as 18 days.
Feed efficiency (gain per pound of dry matter intake) was highest for the high feeding rate calves weaned over the longest (18 days) period of time.
As I look back at my own weaning practices for intensively-fed calves there were two trends that were significant for me:
1. Although my goal was to complete my step-down weaning in one week nearly all my calves took two weeks to arrive at my goal of calf starter grain intake. Thus, rather than calves completing weaning between 42 and 49 days, most of them were completely weaned between 42 and 56 days - thus the weaning took two weeks.
2. I participated in a feeding trial involving these intensively-fed calves. We had rates of gain for each week up to when they were completely weaned. The majority of these calves taking two weeks to wean gained over two pounds a day between 42 and 56 days. It seems to me that we were getting very acceptable rates of feed conversion among these calves even though I admit I did not have dry matter intakes for them.
Dennis, T.S. and Others, "Effects of milk replacer feeding rate and age at weaning on calf performance and digestion through 8 weeks of age." Journal of Dairy Science, Supplement 2, 100:301 July 2017.