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Posted: 01/24/2023

How to Wean Calves Without the Digestive Woes

The weaning process: It’s a double whammy of a new environment and a new diet can bring calves stress and nutrient disruption from limited feed and water intake. Even worse, these digestive disruptions can increase a calf’s susceptibility to disease and affect its future productivity. This transition is important, and can bring stress on management and staff, too. But it doesn’t have to be that way thanks to TechMix Weaning Calf Protocol.

Beef calves eating out of trough

Changes that Challenge Digestion

The calf’s transition to feed can create digestive disturbances and disrupt water and feed intake. But there’s way more going on than just changing the diet itself. Between weeks 8 and 12, the calf’s body develops from a monogastric that digests milk as its primary nutritional source, to a ruminant with four stomach compartments that can digest grains and high-fiber forages.

Grain consumption is tied directly to water consumption. High-quality hay is also important around this time, but too much of it can limit the calf’s grain consumption. TechMix suggests an 8:1 grain-to-hay (by weight) ratio for providing adequate energy and giving the calf an initial exposure to roughage.

When’s the Best Time to Wean Calves?

The best time to wean your calf might depend more on the condition of the dam instead of the age of the calf. Some say aim for 12 weeks (approx. 100 kg calves) because calves are used to grazing by then and don’t require as much protein. However, early weaning can maintain herd fertility (based on fat score). Plus, liquid diets are labor-intensive and expensive, so plenty of producers choose to wean at 8 weeks of age and transition to roughage.

Either way, feed additives will assist with hydration, and yeast products can help support rumen health while this stomach compartment quickly develops. This kind of support can stabilize dietary stress for a calf who’s simultaneously adapting to a new social order and moving into new housing. There’s a lot to consider, so focus on finding the best time – and digestive tools – that meet your production needs.

Weaning Support Calf Protocol from TechMix

The Weaning Support Calf Protocol is the last in the series of four supplementation protocols from TechMix that are each designed to meet specific health challenges for calves. We see the need and advantages of having these protocols in your calving arsenal, so we’ve highlighted each in our Learning Center:

Like the others, TechMix's Weaning Support Calf Protocol offers science-designed support during a key transition that impacts the calf – and your bottom line – long term. Learn how you can invest in digestive integrity.

STEP 1: Provide electrolytes to help maintain hydration status.

Bovine BlueLite supplement comes in capsules, pellets and powder, but this protocol specifically calls on the pellets. They’re full of nutrients needed to help calves recover from dehydration. Electrolytes also combat toxins and deliver multiple energy sources, which help restore health for reproduction, milk production and to avoid many metabolic issues.

Protocol Use: Top dress 2 ounces of pellets per head per day in feed for 5 days following weaning.

STEP 2: Daily DFMs for improved gut integrity.

Calf PreRD is full of direct-fed microbials (DFMs) to create a more desirable digestive environment for utilizing feed nutrients. These daily DFMs allow calves to gain weight more quickly and possibly wean earlier. It’s even been shown to have economic advantages through better calf performance in various ways.

Protocol Use: Mix to supply 4 grams per head per day into grain mix for the first 5 to 10 days following weaning.

Start Winning the Weaning Game. Get TechMix.

Stop worrying when it comes to weaning. Let TechMix help your calves keep drinking, eating and producing. Find all the TechMix protocol products you need from PBS Animal Health, and check out their additional products for other species, too.

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