Just like human infants must eventually give up the bottle, our calves are too weaned from milk. Dairy farmers take great care to make sure that weaning doesn’t happen too soon and that the health and well being of the calves is their number one priority.
Weaning is a natural process. As calves’ bodies mature, calves have different nutritional needs. Cattle are ruminants and have a four compartment stomach. This makes them good digesters of grain and forage (hay or grasses).
To aide our calves’ natural weaning instinct, we will increase the amount of grain they eat each day about a week before weaning begins (at about 8 weeks of age). We like to see our calves eating around one pound of grain a day and two pounds of hay. Our grain mixture consists of barley, oats, minerals and kelp. This provides them with the nutrients that they need to stay healthy. Also, we watch the calves closely before weaning. If they seem to be sick or have had a lot of stress recently (like really cold weather) we will hold off on the weaning.
After their grain intake has increased, we will start weaning. We lessen the milk that we give them each day. This process is gradual and usually takes about a week. After weaning is completed, they will increase their hay intake. We feed the newly weaned calves the same high quality hay that we feed to the milking cows. We feed high quality hay, which has more nutrients than they need because the calves’ stomachs are still maturing and can’t fully take advantage of the feed they are eating.
We always make sure to wean at the calves’ pace. If for some reason they seem to be stressed during weaning, we back off a bit. Care for our animals is our number one concern.
Our calves grow into healthy and happy cows which produce milk for the next generation of calves and your family.