Weaning Basics

Reduce Stress — Vaccinate and castrate a few weeks prior to weaning.1

Provide Quality Nutrition — High-quality feed and a good source of clean water are essential.1 In cold weather, check water isn't frozen.

Maintain Health — Work with your veterinarian to develop a preventive program for diseases and parasites.

Watch Closely — Monitor calves twice daily for signs of sickness for the first few weeks after weaning. If in doubt, take a suspect animal's temperature.2

Monitor Feeding — Make sure feed bunks are clean and water troughs allow easy access for newly weaned calves.3

Follow Preconditioning Protocol — The Merial SUREHEALTH® program is the industry's only nationwide veterinarian-certified preconditioning program.


Weaning Q&A: Tony Moravec, DVM, Merial veterinary services

Q: How many days should I wean my calves before selling them?

A: According to SUREHEALTH preconditioning recommendations, wean calves at least 45 days before they are sold.4 That's also a common industry guideline.

Q: What do I have to do to prepare to wean my calves?

A: Limit all unnecessary stress on calves on and around weaning day. That means performing health and other necessary treatments (castrating, dehorning, etc.) well in advance of weaning day. A healthy calf at weaning better withstands the stresses associated with weaning. That animal will also resume weight gains more quickly.5,6

Q: Should I vaccinate against BRD at branding or turnout? On what time schedule?

A: Prevention, rather than treatment, of BRD should be your primary goal. Use a vaccination program to create immunity in the calf herd. Start by vaccinating calves at least two to three weeks prior to weaning, followed by booster vaccinations at weaning. For complete guidelines on calf health protocols, log on to the MERIAL SUREHEALTH website at www.surehealth.com.

Q: What facilities do I need for a weaning program?

A: Calves should be isolated in a corral, dry lot or small grass pasture with good fencing during the bawl-out period. If a dry lot or corral is used, smaller pens are preferable to reduce walking or pacing. To discourage fence walking, strategically place feed bunks, hay or water troughs along the fence line. If you allow cows to stay adjacent to calves, the weaning corral must be designed and constructed to withstand aggressive behavior or cows attempting to reunite with their calves.3


®SUREHEALTH is a registered certification mark of Merial. ©2014 Merial Limited. Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. RUMILSH1404 (10/14).

1 Filley S. Weaning Beef Calves. Oregon State University Extension Service. August 2011.

2 Kasimanickam, R. (2010, August). Bovine Respiratory Disease "Shipping Fever" in Cattle.

Retrieved September 23, 2014, from Washiington State University Veterinary Medicine Extension:

3 Lalman, e. a. (n.d.). Nutrition and Management Considerations for Preconditioning Home Raised Beef Calves. Stillwater, OK: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service publication No. F-3031.

4 Dhuyvetter, K. C. (2004). Economics of Preconditioning Calves. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University Agricultural Leaders Conference, Kansas State University.

5 Bailey, D. a. (1996). Preconditioning calves for feedlots. Managing for Today's Cattle Market and Beyond. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from Livestock Marketing Information Center:

6 McCollum, T. a. (2004). Preconditioning Pointers. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from Beef® Magazine: beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_preconditioning_pointers