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The most stress-free weaning solution is using a device such as the EasyWean NoseRing. The process is gradual and mimics the natural process, which is best for all concerned – the calf, cow and producer. It can be applied for selective weaning, such as early weaning during times of drought or allowing groups of calves to be weaned in stages depending on age, as well as weaning of out-of-season calves.
The EasyWean NoseRing is a spikey, removable and reusable plastic nosering that fits into the nose of the calf about to be weaned. The ring is clamped onto the septum and does not puncture the nose. It also does not require any special equipment to fit. This wholly South African product is made from acetyl plastic with a stainless-steel fastener.
Below are the testimonials of producers who have successfully used it:
JP van den Berg
JP van den Berg was born on a cattle farm and has been farming in the Molopo region in North West for the past 14 years. He doesn’t produce a specific breed, and his cattle herd comprises mostly African bloodlines. These cows are fertile, produce enough milk, wean their first calves at 30 months, reconceive within the allotted period, and produce a calf each year. He has been using the EasyWean NoseRing since 2020.
JP regards the NoseRing as a management tool. “It is a simple way of weaning calves, even for a worker who has to man the cattle post on his own. Individual calves can be weaned on a daily or weekly basis, whichever option suits the producer’s management system.”
Each NoseRing can be utilised for more than one season. Workers are encouraged to fit the NoseRing securely to keep it from falling out, although it is easy to find if it does fall out.
The NoseRing, explains JP, reduces stress during the 14 to 21 days it takes to wean calves. It also allows the calf to remain with its mother in the same camp, thus reducing the risk of cows and calves breaking through fences. The calves are calm when removed from the cows post weaning, and are easy to handle.
“If your animals are subjected to stress, it will reflect in their production figures. Given today’s unpredictable markets it is simply too risky for me to set a specific date in advance on which to wean, remove the calves from their mothers, and market them. The calf is weaned while next to its mother and everyone is happy – the cow, the calf and the workers.”
There are also the indirect benefits to consider such as saving on time, says JP. “It plays a huge role in the success of the business; there are several useful aids that allow producers to produce optimally and that have to be researched and tested. If it adds value, utilise those tools that will boost your productivity.”
Joubert Swanepoel from the Vryburg/Piet Plessis area has been farming cattle since 1990. He currently runs between 500 and 550 Bovelder cows and for the past three years has been making use of the NoseRing.
According to Joubert, this handy aid has several advantages of which easy weaning is but one. “The NoseRing is easy to fit, and the calf is weaned next to its mother. It also makes for virtually stress-free weaning, with both the cow and the calf tolerating it well.”
Cows and calves no longer roam up and down camps searching for one another. It really simplifies the weaning process. Once the weaning period is over, the calf can be removed without hassle. It also limits weight loss in especially cows.
For Joubert, the easy handling of a weaned animal is crucial. “One of the lessons I’ve learned is that by the time the milk is taken away the separation process has already started, because by then the calves are already seven or eight months old.
Leo Roets from Piet Plessis in North West has been farming Bovelder cattle since 1996, and is also a member of the Bovelder study group in the Highveld. He farms some 650 animals on 5 000ha and has been utilising EasyWean NoseRings for six years.
It allows for easy weaning with very little shock or associated stress, says Leo. “Neither the cows nor calves lose weight at weaning. Their weight may stagnate for a week or two, but this is a rare occurrence. A cow that loses weight during the summer calving season must regain it in winter – an exercise that is neither easy nor cheap.
“The heifers you want to retain shouldn’t lose weight but rather gain it. In winter, a weaned heifer grazing our sweetveld can gain between 250 and 300g per day when offered an additional good quality winter lick. If a calf loses 8kg during weaning, she must be kept a month longer to allow her to regain her original weight. The sooner the heifer reaches her target weight, the sooner she can be mated and enter the production line.”
Producers often opt to delay weaning their calves because they are too light or the weaner price is too low, says Leo. This equates to financial losses. The cow’s condition should have started improving so that she can calve in 90 days, but this is not possible if her calf is still suckling.
“The benefit of timeous weaning far outweighs the profit you will make from the few extra kilograms. And this is where the NoseRing makes a difference, especially in my farming enterprise. It is easy to fit, is durable, can be reused, and is affordable.”
Every product has a story
Judy Richardson from Piet Plessis in North West has been involved in extensive beef cattle farming for over 30 years, and currently runs some 70 Bonsmara cows in a cow-calf weaner production system. The cattle run in a single herd, with a windmill supplying water to a central water point.
In the early nineties, Judy was involved in a cattle farming business near Vryburg that weaned 500 calves a year as part of a 1 200-strong Drakensberger herd. At the time they also trained livestock producers across Southern Africa in holistic management.
“Anyone involved in cattle production and management knows that weaning is one of the most stressful times on the farming calendar. It is a critical time in terms of production and cash flow. Finding a less stressful method of weaning therefore made sense, which is how the EasyWean NoseRing came into being 26 years ago.”
According to Judy, their main motivation for developing the NoseRing was to simplify management. “Calves can be weaned while still with their mothers. This means more flexibility in terms of grazing and herd management. However, it only took one season for the myriad production advantages of stress-free weaning to become apparent.”
In many of the trials, weaner calves and cows showed significant weight gain, with little to no weight loss. A few additional, unanticipated advantages emerged, such as learned behaviour. Weaners that stayed with their mothers during and after weaning learned to avoid poisonous plants such as lantana. On one farm losses were reduced by 100%.”
Judy believes the NoseRing is the most successful method of weaning on a small farm. All her calves complete the weaning process while by their mothers’ side. After five to ten days all marketable calves are loaded and sold at the local auction; replacement heifers remain in the herd with their mothers. Their NoseRings remain in for around six weeks, until lactation is over, after which they are removed.
NoseRings allow for flexibility in terms of weaning. Calves of different ages can be weaned at different times while they are still part of the herd. It also allows for early weaning in times of drought.
Condition and weight loss
Cattle producers know that the condition of the cow at calving determines reconception. Weaning the calf at seven months affords the cow five months in which she can regain her condition before she calves again. For the majority of weaner producers in South Africa, this occurs in winter.
Learn more about the EasyWean Nosering in this Farm TV interview:
Judy explains that the traditional separation method on sourveld, for example, can result in an estimated 30 to 40kg weight loss in cows, and as much as 20 to 25kg in weaner calves. Recovering that weight comes at a significant cost in terms of lick, feed or time lost. As the use of the NoseRing prevents weight loss, it allows the cow to recover much quicker, which significantly impacts condition at calving and therefore reconception. Higher conception rates at virtually no cost make financial sense.
Another benefit of the NoseRing is that the calves of first calvers can be weaned early. This allows more time for the cows to recover, increasing the chances of reconception.
Following natures path
Judy considers the use of the NoseRing to be a more humane way of weaning. “My method of farming tries to mimic nature as much as possible, while still maintaining a commercially viable and growing business.”
The NoseRing allows for stress-free weaning. The cow is encouraged to wean her own calf by moving away when the calf tries to suckle once the NoseRing is fitted. Judy is able to achieve an annual conception rate of 95% in her cows and she can run a single herd year round.
The cost of the NoseRing is recovered in the first year through reduced weight loss in cows and calves. They are also reusable and can last for years. “This is a win-win solution and as far as I’m concerned, it is the only way to wean.”
For more information, contact Judy Richardson on 053 927 4999/082 459 9451 or email@example.com, or visit the EasyWean Facebook page.