Weaning Readiness - It May be the Total Volume
Consumed, Not Just the Amount per Day?
In a July posting at www.calfnotes.com Dr. Jim Quigley asked the question, "How much energy is in my starter?" (Calf Note #209 with that title.)
As part of this discussion he observed, "the rumen develops in response to ALL of the starter a calf consumes, and not just the starter the calf consumes on a given day."
Thus, when assessing weaning readiness ideally one needs to know in addition to the current daily calf starter grain consumption but also have a rough idea of the total volume consumed over several weeks.
These observations are consistent with earlier recommendations in this blog about keeping track of how long (number of weeks) calves have been consistently eating starter. I have been recommending waiting to fully wean calves not sooner that at least three weeks after they began to consistently eat a minimum of 1/2 pound of starter daily.
My own calves on an intensive milk feeding program generally began to consistently eat 1/2 pound of starter between 21 and 28 days. After I reduced their daily milk replacer intake from 2 pounds to 1 pound of powder at about 35 days the majority of calves increased starter intakes from less than 1 pound daily to 2.5 to 3.5 pounds a day.
By the end of 7 weeks (about 50 days) most of these calves had consumed between 40 and 50 total pounds of starter - most of this between 28 and 49 days of age - about three weeks. Knowing that I would be feeding a grower pellet in the weaned pens I fed 1/2 textured calf starter mixed with 1/2 grower pellet the last week in the hutches.
When they were fully weaned sometime between 49 and 56 days most of them were eating between 4 and 5.5 pounds of this 1/2 and 1/2 blend daily. A pen of 5 in a weaning pen might eat only 20 pounds of grower pellets the first day or two after going into the pen but after a few days I usually had to feed 25 to 35 pounds of pellets daily (ad lib feeding).
As a side note, when time permitted I fed a handful of good quality alfalfa hay in each grain bucket the last week calves were in hutches. Then I only fed as much hay in the transition pens the first week after moving as the calves would clean up in roughly 30 minutes. I did not feed ad lib hay until the third week in the transition pens.