Yard weaning benefits growth rates and calf health

As calf weaning gets underway, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is encouraging farmers to consider yard weaning as an alternative to paddock weaning.

image of cattle weaning in yards

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Advisor Biosecurity and Animal Welfare, Will Halliday, says Australian trials found yard weaned calves to be 15.3kg heavier after three months and had a lower incidence of respiratory disease than paddock weaned calves.

The trial also found that yard weaned cattle were easier to handle over their lifetime and were more likely to adjust quickly to feedlot or cell grazing systems, improving the chance of superior weight gain.

A farm trial carried out in Gisborne showed even more impressive results. Yard weaned Angus/Hereford/Simmental cross calves gained 10kg over a six-and-a-half-day yard weaning trial compared to 0.5kg in paddock weaned calves. All calves were around 140 days old.

Halliday says yard weaning involves keeping calves in dry yards for four or five days after weaning and giving them access to high quality silage or hay (quality is important) as well as clean, fresh water.

To help socialise the calves, at least one person should walk through the yards at least twice a day without dogs.

He says calves between 180kg and 260kg should be allowed at least 4m square/head while smaller calves should be allocated 2.5m square/head. It is important calves are kept reasonably close together as this helps quieten them down.

Another farm trial in NZ highlighted the importance of providing good quality feed for the calves in the yards, as well as the on-going benefits of running noticeably quieter more settled cattle.

For more information about the benefits of yard weaning check out the B+LNZ factsheet on the advantages of yard weaning calves (PDF, 266 KB).