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A Comparison of the Effects of Three Different Weaning Methods on Performance and Behavior of Beef Calves
AdvisorTeglas, Mike B
Agriculture, Veterinary and Rangeland Sciences
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To assess the effects three different weaning methods have on beef calves' weight gain and behavior, 339 Angus and Angus-cross calves were weaned in 5 trials over 2 years. In each trial calves were equally divided into 3 weaning method treatments: traditional weaning, interval weaning, and fence-line weaning. Behavioral observations began on day 1 and continued to day 5 and included the observation of eating, drinking, walking, standing and lying down behaviors as well as the measurement of the amount of vocalizations emitted by each treatment group. Weights were obtained on days 0, 7, 14, and 28 and average daily gain (ADG) as well as cumulative weight gain was calculated for each period. Fence-line weaned calves vocalized more than interval weaned calves in the evenings (P = 0.02) but no other significant differences were seen. Interval weaned calves were observed eating more than traditionally weaned calves (P = 0.001). Fence-line calves did not differ from the other 2 groups in eating behavior. Traditionally weaned calves spent more time walking than interval weaned calves (P = 0.007). Fence-line weaned calves did not differ from traditionally weaned calves in walking behavior except on days 2 and 3 when they walked less (P = 0.0001 for day 2, P = 0.01 for day 3). Fence-line and interval weaned calves did not differ in walking behavior. Fence-line weaned calves spent more time lying down than traditionally weaned calves (P = 0.006) but no difference was seen between interval weaned calves and the other 2 groups. Fence-line weaned calves did not differ from the other 2 treatments for weight gain data. Interval weaned calves had a greater ADG on week 1 than traditionally weaned calves (P = 0.0003) but traditionally weaned calves had a greater ADG for week 2 than interval weaned calves (P = 0.002). For cumulative weight gain, interval weaned calves had greater weight gain than traditionally weaned calves for the 0 through 7 day period but weight gain did not differ between any of the three treatments for the 0 through 14 day period or the 0 through 28 day period. It was concluded that fence-line weaning provided minimal benefits to calf behavior during weaning and no benefits to weight gain compared to traditional weaning where as interval weaning provided benefits to behavior and weight gain during the first week of weaning compared to traditionally weaning making it a likely candidate to replace traditional weaning especially when calves are marketed the week after weaning occurs.