Weaning 2014

We have been weaning for the past week or so. For the last 5 or 6 years we have used nose flaps to help us wean. We bring the herd in & separate the cows from the calves. Our cows are used to being handled so this is a fairly easy process. To make it even easier for the last couple of years we have let the calves go under a rail into a separate pen while the cows go through a gate into their pen. This works really slick & saves a lot of time. The calves then go down the chute. Each one is caught in the head gate & the nose flap is inserted. This is a simple operation. We can do about 100 head per hour. The calves then go back with the cows for 4 days.

On the fourth day we bring the herd in again. The cows & calves are re-sorted. The calves go down the chute again. This time there is no need to catch each calf. The nose flaps can be removed in the alley way leading to the chute. This process is even quicker than installing the flaps. We can do about 150 head per hour. At this point the cows go out by themselves & the calves go to their wintering area. Weaning is done.

Using the nose flaps was a real paradigm shift for me. I remember the first time I heard about nose flaps. My reaction was: “what a dumb idea. I would never do that.” Fast forward 2 or 3 years, Scott & Mark had a few bull calves to wean. They decided to try the nose flaps. They worked really well. The following fall they suggested “let’s try nose flaps on the whole herd.” My reaction was: “it’s crazy enough maybe it will work. Let’s try it & see.”

We have been pleased with the nose flaps. It doesn’t make a big difference to the cows. The cows are still upset & bawl quite a bit. One positive difference is that the cows are easier to move away from the calves after they are separated.

The big advantage we see is in the behavior of the calves. For the first 4 days the calves are content since they are with their mothers. When the flaps are removed & the calves separated, the calves are very calm. They go on feed & water immediately. There is little or no wandering around the pen. This reduces stress & health problems. Overall we are pleased with nose flap weaning. We think it is the lowest stress system we have used.

Using nose flaps requires some cattle handling. If you don’t like working your cattle or if you don’t have a good set up it likely isn’t for you. If you have a good set up & enjoy cattle handling nose flap weaning might appeal to you. Remember it never hurts to try something new. You might be pleasantly surprised like I was.

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