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Feeding Newly-Weaned Calves

Weaning is a stressful time for calves. They’re separated from their mother, moving to a new environment, and transitioned from a diet of grass and milk to a total mix ration.

Justin Waggoner is an animal scientist at Kansas State University. He says research indicates that exposing the calves to the feed bunk before weaning takes away a lot of their hesitation when brought into the dry lot facility.

"The second thing they could do in advance of that is if they’ve got some of the feedstuffs or ingredients that those calves are going to be exposed to in that weaning ration, if they could begin feeding a little bit of that to those calves while they’re still with their dam in the pasture, maybe even if it’s just once or twice, really can go a long ways toward easing that transition because then it’s not a completely novel feedstuff," says Waggoner.

A step-by-stepfeed management protocol slowly transitions them from a hay diet to total mixed rations. They’re offered the ration at a half-percent of their body weight, and also a half-percent of high-quality grass hay.

"So that first day we lay out that ration on the bottom of our feed bunks, and we put the hay on top. As we come to the second day we increase the amount of ration that we’re offering, usually up to about .7% of body weight, we leave our hay the same, at a ½% of body weight. Once again, we put the diet on the bottom, the hay on the top," he says. "We follow that same protocol, gradually stepping up the amount of ration that we’re offering those calves."

Around the 4th day, Waggoner says they begin putting the hay on the bottom, and the diet on the top.