Tuesday's Tutorial~ Animals Make Us Human~Weaning Issues

As I continue with the review of the cattle section of the book Animals Make Us Human, I wanted to touch on the portion where Dr. Grandin speaks about weaning. Weaning can be such a traumatic time for cows and calves. In fact, the stress of weaning can cause a calf to have reduced weight gain for a week. Dr. Grandin suggests two methods of weaning: "Fenceline" weaning and the use of weaning rings. She actually advocates using a two step method of weaning as the superior method. To do this, one must first insert a weaning ring in the calf's nose but allow the calf to stay with it's mother for a while. Eventually, the farmer/homesteader will want to separate cow and calf compeletely. Dr. Grandin says that when calves are weaned in this manner, the cows vocalize 85% less and the calves 95% less than calves weaned in the typical "high stress" manner. (ie: abruptly pulling the calf off the dam)

Another way to wean that is less stress on calf and cow is to follow the "Fenceline Weaning" method of weaning. In this manner, the cow and calf can still see each other, interact, touch noses through the fence and have contact with one another. Dr. Grandin suggests a 45 day period before shipping calves if using the fenceline weaning method.

If you have not read my previous posts reviewing Animals Make Us Human, you can view them here and here.


Deb said...

I can't say I'm fond of weaning time...poor Stew isn't happy, but I am cause I have enough cream to make butter finally again! Yippee!!! LOL

Amy Lagerquist said...

We used "real" fenceline weaning this year and I'm still in awe of how peaceful it went! The calves are in the paddock where they were born, separated from their mamas, who are in the adjacent sacrifice paddock, by field fencing. I've caught Bridgit grooming Clyde through the square holes in the fence many times, his muzzle pushing through as far as possible while mama grooms his neck through another hole.

In contrast, last year we thought we were fenceline weaning, but when the cows can wander a much larger field out of their calves' sight, chaos ensues. We've learned that confining the cows better during weaning makes a less stressful and much quieter experience for all.