Presently a lot of hype exists over fenceline weaning, and one of the
reasons is because it is another low-stress handling tool. An important
advantage of managing cattle under minimum stress is that calm animals
produce better weight gains than stressed cattle and weight determines
animal value at market. Other advantages are less injury to livestock and
handlers, reduction of livestock health problems and fewer repairs on
handling facilities. With the public's concern over animal cruelty, it is
imperative that we handle our cattle as gently as possible.
"For most ranchers, fenceline weaning is leaving calves in the corral and
cows outside in the pasture," says Ron Gill with Texas AgriLife Extension.
"To me, the true concept of fenceline weaning is leaving calves and cows in
pastures with just a fence between them. Technically speaking, I guess both
systems are fenceline weaning, but the costs, management requirements and
benefits are very different between the two methods."
Fenceline weaning is defined by beef cattle specialists at Texas AgriLife
Extension Service as a management system in which calves are removed from
the cows but are allowed to see, hear and smell their dams. Depending on the
type of fencing, physical contact may also be possible.
"Removal of a calf from its mother is second only to birth in creating
stress," states Clyde Lane Jr., professor of animal science at the
University of Tennessee. "Weaning stress can be reduced by letting calves
become familiar with the pasture where weaning will take place. This can be
accomplished by moving cows and calves into the weaning pasture a few days
before the weaning process begins. During this time calves can learn from
their dams where feed and water are located. Calves can also learn from
their dams that it is alright to eat the feed and drink the water. At
weaning, remove cows from the weaning area and leave the calves in place."
Gill recommends, "Either hand or creep feed calves before weaning. Calves
that are used to eating feed when they are weaned undergo less stress and
lose very little weight, if any. If calves are weaned in the fall, range
cubes can be fed during the summer, which is more economical than creep
feed. The cubes provide supplemental protein needed by cows on dry grass and
give calves an opportunity to learn to eat feed."
"Fenceline weaning requires planning and flexibility based on climatic
conditions, rainfall patterns and forage availability," states Gill. "If you
don't receive adequate rainfall and ample forage is not available, then you
might have to change to drylot weaning."
Rick Machen with Texas AgriLife Extension Service says, "On weaning day, no
additional processing such as castrating, dehorning, vaccinating or branding
should be done to the cows or the calves. Complete these practices at least
three weeks before weaning and preferably before the calves are three months
of age. If additional work is done at weaning, it will lead to increased
stress and anxiety and make it much more difficult to keep cows and calves
separated once turned back to pasture."
Fenceline weaning may not be feasible for every ranch because pastures have
to be available and in the right locations so that calves can be placed
across the fence from their dams. Fences must be strong enough to keep cows
and calves separated and to prevent the calves from nursing. However, they
should allow nose-to-nosed contact between a calf and its dam.
Check out Nathan Boles' article on Fenceline Weaning
http://www.cattlemanagement.com/fenceline-weaning for his experience and
ideas about weaning calves with the fenceline process.
What's been your experience with fenceline weaning? Leave a comment in the
"Speak your Mind" box below.