Implementing Low Stress Fence-Line Separation for Calf Weaning

Implementing Low Stress Fence-Line Separation for Calf Weaning

weaning calves

Health is the top reason why Shaw Cattle Co. of Caldwell, Idaho, has weaned all calves on green grass, and as many as possible through a fence-line-weaning system, over the past 20 years. Photo courtesy of Kim Holt.

Weaning is one of the most stressful times for cattle. You remove the source of security calves have had since birth, and change their routine. Stress is a key contributor to sickness, weight loss, and poor performance. Just as you should do in working your mature cattle, putting newly weaned calves in the least stressful environment can lead to improved performance for both the calf, and the cow, which ultimately affects your bottom line.

Fence-line weaning has been documented for several years to provide an applicable method of low stress weaning on cattle operations. Research performed at New Mexico State highlighted that calves who were fence-line weaned showed increases in weight gain after two weeks, persistence in eating, and time of rest while decreasing the number of vocalizations and time spent walking. During the 2006 and 2007 study, seven-day post weaning gain was positive at 16 lbs. and 4 lbs. respectively with minimal outward signs of stress. Studies conducted at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), and University of Idaho show that calves weaned while remaining in ear- and eye sight of their dams are, on average, 20 to 25 pounds (lb.) heavier after 10 weeks than calves that are physically removed from the ranch.

Fence-line weaning isn’t practical on all ranches. In some situations, your facility may not have the optimum set up to adequately wean with direct nose-to-nose contact. However, there are other proven practices that can be implemented to reduce calf stress at weaning.

Provide calves access to the weaning area (pen, trap or pasture) a week or two prior to weaning, so calves do not undergo the stress of a complete change in environment. At the time of weaning, move your cows to a new location during separation; but don’t move the calves. Mature cattle that have been more frequently exposed to changes in surroundings are less prone to the onset of stress. It’s also important to place the calves in your best paddock or lot, try to avoid a dusty holding area where they are susceptible to respiratory diseases.  Allow fence-line contact between calf and dam for approximately four to seven days following weaning. Your fences should be sturdy enough for proper separation and still allow nose-to-nose contact while preventing nursing. The most effective fence material is net wire with the optional strand of stand-off electrical wire. Barbed wire fences can be used, but may present problems in some circumstances where calves are persistent in re-connecting with their mother. Electrical fencing takes the most preparation and preconditioning. One to two weeks of electrical fence exposure should provide adequate preparation. If fence-line contact isn’t practical, move cows far enough away to limit the exposure to the balling calves .

If you must wean in a dry lot paddock, place your feed bunks, hay and water troughs along the fence to reduce perimeter walking, and to increase encounters with their feed and water. If calves are weaned in a pasture, place feed and water along the fence-line where practical to increase the likelihood that calves will find feed and water within the first few hours. Placing large water troughs inside the pen and letting water troughs overflow slightly may attract calves to the water, and help calves that are accustomed to drinking from live water sources adjust to troughs, and the sounds of an activated float. Unnecessary stress caused by castrating, dehorning or branding calves should be avoided if possible. These practices should be completed several weeks before weaning, and preferably prior to three months of age.

Implementing a low stress weaning program on your farm should fit your operation. Explore different ways to cut the instance of stress on both your animals and you. Examine other operations and discuss with fellow cattlemen ideas they have used to improve performance. Some investment in improved weaning facilities can save you time and money in the long run.

cattle grazing

Cattle grazing pasture. Photo credit: Nick Simmons, UF/IFAS Extension

References:

Price, E.O., J.E. Harris, R.E. Borgwardt, M.L. Sween, J.M. Connor. 2003. Fenceline contact of beef calves with their dams at weaning reduced the negative effects of separation on behavior and growth rate. J Anim Sci 81: 116-121

P Mathis, C & , Pas & H Cox, S & Löest, C.A. & Petersen, M & Mulliniks, John. (2009). Pasture Preconditioning Calves at a Higher Rate of Gain Improves Feedlot Health but Not Postweaning Profit. The Professional Animal Scientist. 25. 475-480.

Pirelli, G., and W. A. Zollinger. 2002. Weaning management for calves. CL 748, Cow-Calf Management Guide and Cattle Producer’s Library. Ag Communications, University of Idaho.

Preconditioning Calves Using Co-products, Hersom, M., Thrift, T., Yelich, J.

NFREC Heifer Development Field Day – January 10

Group of cattle producers learning about CIDR for AI with lady talking.

Chute-side demonstrations for cattle producers at the 2018 field day. Photo Credit: Pete Vergot

The replacement of subfertile cows in a cow/calf operation comes at a tremendous cost. Successfully managing replacement heifers the first two years of their life can play a role in their lifetime productivity, and should be a priority for all herdsmen.

A heifer development field day will be hosted at the North Florida Research and Education Center on January 10, 2019, with registration beginning at 8:30 and the program kicking off at 9:00 AM CST. Lunch will be sponsored by Zoetis and be served at noon.

Dystocia Simulator that will be at the field day. Photo Credit: Veterinary Simulator Industries

The 2019 heifer field day that will feature topics that are focused on replacement heifer development and management. A highlight of this year’s event will surely be the interactive calving simulator that will allow participants the opportunity to work through dystocia situations (calving difficulties) in a life-like model. Those who attend the field day will have the opportunity to practice pulling calves that are in abnormal presentations and positions and the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in dealing with dystocia.

In addition to the field day, a preview of the bulls that will be sold at the 2019 Florida Bull Test Sale will be held. Starting at 1:00 PM, all prospective buyers will have the opportunity to see the bulls that have been consigned to the sale on January 19th.

 

Northwest Florida Beef Conference & Trade Show – February 13

Northwest Florida Beef Conference & Trade Show – February 13

Mark your new 2019 calendar!  Cattle ranchers from the Tri-state Region (FL, AL, GA) are invited to attend the 34th annual Northwest Florida Beef Conference and Trade Show, to be held on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 in Marianna, Florida.  The Conference will be held at the Jackson County Extension Office, located at 2741 Penn Avenue, Marianna, Florida. There will be a $5 per person registration fee, payable at the door.  Registration and the Trade Show open at 7:30 AM central time, the program starts at 8:15 AM, and concludes with a steak lunch.

2019 Focus:  Rebuilding for a Better Future

 Beef Confernce Crowd

The 2019 program will focus on Rebuilding for a Better Future with speakers providing ideas on improving income and restoring or improving productivity. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

The Tri-state area was hammered by Hurricane Michael, so cattle producers in the region were really challenged in 2018.  Because of this, the 2019 Beef Conference educational program will focus on Rebuilding for a Better Future, with speakers providing ideas on improving income and restoring or even improving productivity.   Jared Decker, Beef Genetics Extension Specialist, University of Missouri will be the keynote speaker. He will discuss genomic-enhanced EPDs and EPD Indexes to help producers make effective choices to improve the genetics of their herd.  Other topics will focus on improving overall income sources, such supplemental income sources, adding value to cattle and hay sold, and rebuilding operations better than before the storm.  More details of the specific topics and speakers will be provided, once the complete program is set.

Trade Show

18 Beef Conference Trade Show

The Beef Conference will also feature a Trade Show of businesses and agencies that offer goods and services to cattle producers. Credit Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

In addition to the educational program, the Beef Conference will also feature a Trade Show of businesses and agencies that offer goods and services to cattle producers. There will be time allotted on the schedule to visit with the company representatives to learn about specific products and services they offer for cattle producers in this region. The program will have designated times for ranchers to visit with the Trade Show Exhibitors:  45 minutes during registration, 45 minutes in the middle of the program, and 1 hour immediately after lunch is served.

If you are interested in participating in the as an exhibitor/sponsor, utilize the Trade Show Eventbrite Registration website .  You will be entering the required information online and paying in one simple step.  No other action required. Registration deadline is Friday, February 8.

Trade Show booth at the Northwest Florida Beef Conference.

The Northwest Florida Beef Conference and Trade Show is an educational program provided by the UF/IFAS Panhandle Agriculture Extension Team. For more information on the Beef Conference, or participating in the Trade Show as an exhibitor, contact Doug Mayo, at 850-482-9620.

Friday Feature: Knickers the Giant 6’4″ Australian Steer

Friday Feature: Knickers the Giant 6’4″ Australian Steer

This week’s featured video was published by Today Tonight to share the story of Knickers, the giant 6’4″ tall, 3,000 pound Australian steer that has become a social media sensation.  Knickers is used as a “Coach” or lead steer for a stocker cattle operation in Australia.  While he is not quite large enough to break the world record (6’7″), his story is pretty interesting.  Check out the video!

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If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo

Friday Feature:  Robot Cowboys

Friday Feature: Robot Cowboys

Cattle pushing robot being tested at a Cargill packing plant. Credit: Feedstuffs

This week’s featured video was produced by Feedstuffs Magazine to highlight an innovation being pilot tested at a Cargill cattle packing plant.  They are evaluating remote control robotic cowboys that can move finished cattle though the pens and into the packing house.

Cargill has developed an industry-first robotic cattle driver aimed at improving animal welfare and employee safety. The robots are designed to move cattle from pens to the harvest area, reducing stress to the animals by minimizing their proximity to human activity. Employees operate the robots from a catwalk located above the pens, reducing safety risks by keeping those who work in the cattle yard portion of processing plants at a greater distance from the 1300-pound animals. Source: Cargill

Before you roll your eyes, and make fun, check out the video.  It really is a fairly practical use of robotic technology.  It would be a whole lot easier to hire employees that can operate a video game-type remote control than to find enough workers who understand cattle handling to work three shifts at large packing plants.

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If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo

 

Overseeding Perennial Peanut with Cool-Season Forages

Overseeding Perennial Peanut with Cool-Season Forages

Jose Dubeux, Erick Santos, David Jaramillo, Liza Garcia, Luana Dantas, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, Marianna

Rhizoma perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth.) is an important hay crop in Florida. Rhizoma peanut hay is locally produced within Florida, and it has important stakes in the horse and dairy industries. This warm-season perennial legume is also a valuable forage option for grazing systems (Dubeux et al., 2018). In addition to adding N via biological N2-fixation, rhizoma peanut has greater nutritive value than most warm-season perennial grasses. As a result, greater livestock performance is achieved when mixing this legume in grazing systems. Many producers using rhizoma peanut want to overseed their field with cool-season forages when the rhizoma peanut is dormant. Common questions that precede the decision to overseed rhizoma peanut fields are: 1) Will it hurt my rhizoma peanut regrowth in the following season? 2) Does it matter which cool-season forage I plant? How about annual ryegrass and clovers? Would they damage the rhizoma peanut because of their late growth in the season?

In order to address these questions, we set up a trial at the UF IFAS NFREC in Marianna, FL. We assessed different overseeding treatments on rhizoma peanut fields, including the control (no overseeding), Prine ryegrass, FL 401 rye, FL 401 rye/Prine ryegrass mix, Prine ryegrass/Crimson/Red/Ball clover mix, FL 401 rye/Crimson/Red/Ball clover mix, FL 401 rye/Prine ryegrass/Crimson/Red/Ball clover mix, and Crimson/Red/Ball clover mix. Seeding rates used are described in Table 1. These different overseeding treatments were applied on a dormant Florigraze sod using a no-till drill in 17 Nov 2015, after mowing the stand down to a 2-inches stubble height. We applied 150 lb/acre of 20-5-20 and 100 lb/acre of Kmag (22% K2O, 22% S, and 10.8% Mg) in all treatments. Plots were harvested three times: 11 Feb, 17 March, and 21 Apr 2016. After the third harvest, plots were fertilized with 300 lb/acre of Kmag. On 22 July 2016, we harvested the rhizoma peanut to assess whether or not the overseeding treatment affected the regrowth.

Overseeding treatments varied their biomass accumulation along the three harvests (Figure 1). Earlier forage types, such as FL 401 rye, produced more in the first harvest, as expected. Treatments with clovers and annual ryegrass produced more biomass later in the season, at the third harvest. The option of forage type or mixtures will depend on the objective of each operation. For hay producers, earlier forage production during the cool-season may free up the land earlier, allowing regrowth of rhizoma peanut without other forages being present. For grazing operations, mixtures would likely be a better option because they would help bridge the gap during the spring-summer transition.

Figure 1. Cool-season herbage accumulation of different overseeding treatments on Florigraze rhizoma peanut

Figure 1. Cool-season herbage accumulation of different overseeding treatments on Florigraze rhizoma peanut; UF IFAS NFREC Marianna; 2016.

In the summer harvest (July 2016), the rhizoma peanut from all treatments, including the control that was not overseeded, produced similar amounts of biomass across treatments (Figure 2). This result demonstrates the viability of overseeding rhizoma peanut fields with cool-season forages. The major aspect to highlight is the importance of timely harvest the cool-season forages during the springtime, allowing the rhizoma peanut to regrow.

Figure 2. Summer herbage accumulation of Florigraze rhizoma peanut after overseed during the cool-season with different forage options.

Figure 2. Summer herbage accumulation of Florigraze rhizoma peanut after overseed during the cool-season with different forage options. UF IFAS NFREC Marianna; 2016.

We have been overseeding cool-season forages on strip-planted rhizoma peanut in a grazing trial (Figure 3A). We have been doing this for the last three years, and the rhizoma peanut is vigorous and growing (Figure 3C). The critical phase is the springtime, when rhizoma peanut (and bahiagrass) is starting to regrow (Figure 3B). During this transition, it is important to pay closer attention to the grazing management, in order to reduce the canopy density and open spaces to allow the perennial forages (rhizoma peanut and bahiagrass) to regrow.

Figure 3. Overseeding of cool-season forages on strip-planted rhizoma peanut in Marianna, FL. A. Cool-season mixture of FL401 rye-RAM oat-Dixie Crimson-Southern Belle red clover-Ball clover; B. transition period during the Spring; C. strip-planted rhizoma peanut growing during the summer.

Figure 3. Overseeding of cool-season forages on strip-planted rhizoma peanut in Marianna, FL. A. Cool-season mixture of FL401 rye-RAM oat-Dixie Crimson-Southern Belle red clover-Ball clover; B. transition period during the Spring; C. strip-planted rhizoma peanut growing during the summer. Photo Credit: Jose Dubeux, UF/IFAS

Take-Home Message

Rhizoma peanut can be overseeded during the cool-season with different forage options without reducing the warm-season regrowth. However, if the cool-season forages form a dense stand during the spring, it is important to graze it off or remove the excess forage with hay equipment. Harvest management during the spring is critical to allow regrowth of the rhizoma peanut.

References:
Dubeux, J., L.E. Sollenberger, J. Vendramini, M. Wallau, A. Blount, L. Garcia-Jimenez, E. Santos, and D. Jaramillo. 2018. Strip-planting rhizoma peanut into grazing systems. EDIS SS-AGR-421. Printer friendly pdf version: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/AG/AG42100.pdf