Yesterday, we kicked off our series on weaning strategies. Today, we cover some of the most important health aspects of this influential time.

A sound health program is one key to successful weaning.

Prior to weaning, male calves should be neutered, calves with horns should be dehorned, and all should be dewormed and receive their vaccinations. Just what vaccinations are best? That’s for you and your vet to decide, but it all comes down to one thing: how you plan to market these calves.

  • There are exact product guidelines and timing of shots that qualify for branded production systems. These often add $15 to $20 per head to the sale price. There are also a lot of workable options that fall short of ideal but provide fairly effective protection for calves. Work toward the ideal.
  • Targeting a natural program?
    Vaccinations are a cornerstone because calves that require antibiotics later would become ineligible.
  • If your calves will go straight to market at weaning, be sure to send along details of their health program and genetics. You probably won’t get full value for your efforts, because bawling calves don’t sell themselves well. But a health report may provide some reassurance to bidders that the calves can overcome the stress.

At weaning, we recommend you continue the animal health plan by:

  • Administering boosters.
  • Consider using a medicated starting ration for at least 60 days to reduce sickness and digestive problems like bloat. Rations with an ionophore and coccidiostat are recommended.
  • Allowing calves to go through a minimum 45-day preconditioning program before shipping gets them better prepared for the next phase.

Of course, these guidelines are only general recommendations and no substitution for your own vet’s advice.
The key is to find a plan that will work within your operation’s goals and budget.

Stay tuned Friday as we conclude this series on weaning-time nutrition tips.