Stress undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on livestock productivity. One of the most stressful times in a cow/calf production system is weaning. The challenge is to wean calves in a way that keeps stress-related weight loss to a minimum.
The most common method of weaning is separating cows from their calves. This, according to research by American livestock expert Jennifer Ligon, creates two stressors for calves, namely a sudden change in nutrition and a change in their physical and social environment.
Separating these two stressors, Ligon finds, can relieve some of the stress in both cows and calves. To this end, a device is used that prevents the calf from suckling, while it remains with its mother in the same environment.
According to Judy Richardson, founder of EasyWean® NoseRings® in Vryburg in the North West, many producers think the impact of weaning stress is not their problem. “They argue that the cost of the stress, and the subsequent loss of production, is at the expense of the buyer, not the seller,” she says.
“This may apply to the health status and growth of the calf, but the productionassociated
losses are not considered. Stress can affect reproduction as well as milk production. When the cow is stressed, reproduction and maternal ability are suppressed.
“This makes weaning stress an issue for the seller as well. Furthermore, the humane treatment of livestock is becoming an everincreasing requirement among consumers. For that reason, low-stress handling of livestock also has an impact on public opinion.”
NoseRings® reduces weaning stress
The best way to reduce weaning stress, she says, is to use EasyWean® NoseRings®. By attaching this nose ring to the calf, it can adapt to a diet without milk while still in the comforting presence of its mother. It also gives the cow a chance to regain condition for the next calving season.
The secret to this method is a gradual two-step process: first withdrawing access to milk and then separating the calf from the dam. The nose ring has plastic protrusions that make suckling difficult. It also causes slight discomfort for the cow, causing her to push the calf away from the udder.
This way, the cow weans her own calf over a few days, after which the nose ring is removed and the calf is physically separated from its mother. NoseRings® does not pierce the inside of the nose, is easy to fit and remove, and can be re-used several times.
What do producers say?
Livestock producers across the country use NoseRings® with great success. JD van der Vyver, who farms on Brandwagt in the Vryburg region, has been using it for many
years. One of the main benefits, he says, is
that he can wean selectively.
“For example, if you want to wean the calf of a first-calver a bit earlier, you simply fit the nose ring to the calf and leave it with its mother. This way, you can wean selectively according to birth date. In a three-month calving season there is a big difference between the oldest and youngest calves. The nose ring makes it possible for the youngest calves to reach their ideal weaning weight before weaning.”
According to Alison Oates from the farm Oatesdale in the Eastern Free State, NoseRings® comes in handy with out-of-season calves. As these calves are marketed separately or in small groups, NoseRings® makes it possible to keep the calves in the cow herd until prices are favourable. – Izak Hofmeyr, Stockfarm
For more information, contact Judy Richardson on 053 927 4999, 082 459 9451 or
firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.nosering.co.za.