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EARLY weaning of lambs and calves
has the potential to increase feed
conversion efficiency through
advanced rumen development.
The Elders Livestock Management
Solutions Advanced Weaning pro-
gram promotes weaning at eight to
12 weeks for lambs and four to six
months for calves, provided that
bodyweight targets have been met.
ELMS Regional Manager Mark
Dearing says milk is an excellent
source of nutrition and immunity for
newborn animals, but becomes
ncreasingly inefficient in meeting
nutritional requirements for growth.
The total amount of feed required
o maintain mother and offspring is
significantly reduced after they are
separated. Early weaning has long
been recognised as a valuable tool in
drought management, to reduce the
total feed requirement. The same
benefits can be gained in normal sea-
sons to create a feed surplus, or
increase carrying capacity.
Early weaning assists in increasing
fertility by enabling mothers to
improve body condition. Removing
the lamb or calf also triggers hor-
monal changes that stimulate
Post-weaning growth rates and
feed conversion efficiency are deter-
mined by factors including body-
weight and rumen development
achieved by animals at the time of
A bodyweight of 18 kilograms to
20kg in lambs and 140-160kg in
calves at time of weaning should
enable them to consume sufficient
pasture to maintain good weight
A diet containing both roughage
and quality carbohydrate is impor-
tant for rumen development in
young animals. Milk-only diets have
been shown to retard rumen devel-
opment, putting animals at signifi-
cant risk of reduced growth rates and
poor vigour after weaning, which
compromises ability to achieve
genetic potential for feed conversion
efficiency, weight gain and adult size.
The supply of high-quality
roughage throughout the weaning
process, and high-quality cereal
grain combined with the correct
level of vitamins and minerals for a
period of around 21 to 28 days, is
Mr Dearing said producers who
continued to use traditional weaning
practices risked limiting their return
on investment in high-quality
Early weaning requires correct
preparation of the pregnant ewe or
cow to increase early lactation,
which underpins rapid growth of the
newborn and produces greater body-
weights at an earlier age.
Greater bodyweights, combined
with the correct pre-weaning and
weaning management system, signif-
icantly enhances the opportunity to
improve rumen development, min-
imise stress and prepare the lamb or
calf for high post-weaning growth.
• Need to know more?
Wean early for high efficiency
Chris Pinchbeck's cattle are weaned early to increase efficiency.
EANING of lambs and
calves onto pastures
grazed by a different ani-
mal species is effective in reducing
worm burdens, because most com-
mon worms are species-specific.
Rural Solutions SA Livestock
Consultant, Tiffany Bennett, recom-
mends spelling of paddocks for a
period of six to eight weeks, during
which time a species other than the
one that is being weaned, can be
Weaners should be drenched and
vaccinated, and external parasite
control administered if required,
before moving onto new pastures.
Yard weaning of calves is more
labour-intensive, but allows calves
to become accustomed to yards,
which makes them easier to handle
and can reduce stress levels when
they are confined to crowded yards
later in life.
Yard weaning takes one to two
weeks, during which good quality
hay or silage and fresh, clean water
must be provided. Feeding of lambs
or calves with their mothers
(imprint feeding) at least four times
prior to weaning helps them become
accustomed to new feed.
If yard weaning is not possible,
calves and lambs should be separat-
ed as far from their mothers as pos-
sible, with fences kept in good
repair. Older animals can be used to
help settle weaners, and assist them
in locating feed and water.
Weaning paddocks should pro-
vide high quality feed of 1200-1500
kilograms of green dry matter per
hectare, with some legume content.
Otherwise, high quality supplemen-
tary feeding is required.
Weaners should be monitored
constantly, and if possible, weighed
every four to six weeks to ensure
they are gaining weight. Lambs
should gain at least one kilogram a
month, and calves at least 600-800
grams a day.
Mrs Bennett said achieving ade-
quate growth rates in weaners
would reduce mortality risks,
increase rates of conception at first
mating of heifers and ewe hoggets,
and result in animals that were more
likely to reach market specifications.
• Need to know more?
Strategic grazing to beat worms
Spell paddocks to reduce worm
Wean in yards to reduce stress in
High protein and energy diet
KERSBROOK grower Chris Pinchbeck (pictured) has improved pasture utilisa-
tion and increased stocking rates by weaning calves early.
Chris runs up to 200 Angus cows on 280 hectares at Kersbrook and
Gumeracha with his father, Dan.
For the past three years, the Pinchbecks have weaned their Kersbrook calves
up to 10 weeks earlier than normal, on the Elders Livestock Management
Solutions Advanced Early Weaning Program.
Calves weaned off young cows in mid-October at six to eight months of age,
and grain fed for up to 11 weeks, performed just as
well as calves weaned off older cows in January.
"We are getting calves off the cows two to three
months sooner, which is enabling us to grow them
out and finish them off a bit better," Chris said.
"We have seen the benefits in our cows,
which have five to six months spell before their
Chris plans to wean all his calves early
"The cow-and-calf unit consumes
much more feed than they do individual-
ly, so potentially we will be able to run
10-15 per cent more cattle by weaning
Kersbrook cattle thrive
under ELMS program
Good imprinting is the key to success. Previous exposure to hay, pellets
and grain improves uptake during weaning.
Stress management helps to quieten animals, stimulate appetite and
minimise weight loss.
Formulate vaccination, drenching, vitamin and trace element
supplementation programs relevant to your location.
Weaning pellets specifically designed for this program are critical for
Group animals with others of similar bodyweight and yard separately.
Ensure sufficient feed trough space to allow all animals to feed at one
Supplementary feeding of weaning pellets and grain is recommended for
about 21 days. Younger animals will benefit from a longer feeding period.
Hay is provided as part of a complete ration. A protein supplement may
be needed depending on the type of hay and pasture available.
Access to clean, good quality water is essential.
ELMS early weaning checklist
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