When are the Best Days to Wean Calves? 

best days to wean calves

Gather around the local coffee shop to visit with a long-time farmer or cattle producer. Topics of conversation will jump from the weather, news from uptown and the neighborhood, planting season, and the best days to wean calves. You will likely get as many opinions as there are coffee cups sitting on the tables.  

One of the great things about production agriculture is that it’s great to have opinions and various management practices. Agriculture and cattle production is not a one-size-fits-all profession. Depending on your herd size, available labor and operation goals and resources available, everyone likely approaches weaning slightly differently. 

Although weaning calves from cows is stressful for all involved, proper planning and preparation can reduce the stress for the calves, cows, and you. Let’s explore the best days to wean calves. 

The Best Days to Wean Calves 

The best days to wean calves depend on various factors, including the management practices of the operation, the nutritional status of the cow-calf pair, current market conditions and the availability of forage resources. The old-timers around the coffee shop might even suggest a few of their opinions like following the moon signs or reading the Farmer’s Almanac. We will get into that a little later.  

However, there are general guidelines to consider when determining the optimal timing for weaning: 

Weather Conditions 

Weather conditions should always be considered when planning the timing of weaning. Extreme weather, such as hot and dry conditions or cold and wet conditions, can increase stress on newly weaned calves. Therefore, try to avoid weaning during adverse weather whenever possible.  

Health Status 

Calves should be weaned when they are healthy and free from any significant health issues.  Weaning during periods of stress or illness can compromise the immune system and increase the risk of disease. 

Chris Cassady, Ph. D., BioZyme® Director of Beef Technical Sales, suggests giving calves their proper vaccinations or vaccine boosters about a month prior to weaning. Because each geographic location and situation is slightly different, consult with your veterinarian on what exactly your calves need.  

Most pharmaceuticals offer a 7-way or 5-way vaccine to treat multiple bugs. You will also want to warm calves when you vaccinate them. Ensure calves are vaccinated and in good health before weaning to reduce stress and disease risk. It is imperative to keep these young calves as healthy as possible prior to weaning.  

“If you wait until weaning to vaccinate, that will cause extra stress on the calves. Their immune system is going to be compromised in the first place, and the extra stress will impact the effectiveness of the vaccine, so plan ahead,” Cassady said. 

Age of Calves 

Calves are typically weaned when they are around 6 to 8 months old. By this age, they have developed sufficiently to transition from a diet consisting primarily of milk to one based on forage and supplemental feed. 

However, some research shows that spring-born calves can eat and digest specific native grasses at just 45 days. Weaning calves this early should only be done in rare cases where the cows are thin, and you want them to breed back with the rest of their contemporaries. 

Market Conditions 

If you are not retaining ownership, the current market could influence when you decide to wean. As fall weaned calves continue to jump in price, you might decide to wean a little earlier rather than later. Recently, our team saw 550-pound steers bringing $3.6 per pound. If you can bring in nearly $2,000 for a fresh-weaned calf, chances are you are going to wean and take advantage of the market conditions. 

Forage Availability & Nutritional Status 

Calves should be weaned when they consume enough solid feed to meet their nutritional needs without relying heavily on milk from the dam. They should also be eating a significant amount of forage or supplemental feed and showing independence from the cow. 

Weaning is often timed to coincide with the availability of ample forage resources. This ensures that calves have access to nutritious feed to support their growth and development after weaning.  

Calves also need access to quality minerals, such as those found in Gain Smart®, a line of vitamin and mineral supplements for stocker cattle that promotes healthy, economical pounds. 

Follow the Moon Signs 

Some cattle producers will follow the signs of the moon—and not just for weaning. They also follow moon signs for shearing cows, vaccinating, and other jobs in their operation. 

Seasoned producers will tell you that the best days to wean calves are when the moon is in the signs of:  

  • Sagittarius 
  • Capricorn 
  • Aquarius 
  • Pisces 

These signs are said to rule the thighs, knees, ankles, and feet. 

Go with the Farmers’ Almanac 

The Farmers’ Almanac has been guiding agriculturalists for more than a century. Today, cattle producers still claim that if the Farmers’ Almanac lists a date for weaning, you need to trust it. They claim on those dates, calves will wean off healthier, with less stress and continue to grow better. The best most immediate dates to wean include: 

  • May 24, 2024 
  • June 1, 2024 
  • June 28, 2024 
  • July 25, 2024 
  • July 30, 2024 

Wean the Gain Smart Way  

No matter how you decide your weaning day, we know you will select the best day to wean calves that work for you! And when you do, remember the key is to ensure the health and well-being of both the cow and the calf while aligning with your operational needs.  

Research shows that calves that are fed just 4 ounces of AO-Biotics® Amaferm® daily are likely to increase gains by ¼ of a pound per day. More efficient gains lead to faster-gaining, healthier calves.  

Follow our 3-step approach with VitaFerm® products with the Vita Charge Technology and complete the program with one of our Gain Smart minerals.  

Gain Smart® Offers 3-Step Approach  

“Besides birth, this is the time that will really set a calf up for performance potential for the rest of its life. Keep them on a positive plane of nutrition. If too much damage is done, you’ll always have a chronically sick calf. You will constantly be behind and be spending money on more feed for it. That is where Amafem’s technology is so crucial and helpful in that transition period,” Cassady said.  

Step 1: VitaFerm® Cattle Drench  

VitaFerm® Cattle Drench with the Vita Charge Technology is the first step to successfully weaning your calves. This drench for cattle is designed to support digestive health before, during, and after challenges. Contains AO-Biotics® Amaferm®, a prebiotic research-proven to enhance digestibility. Cattle Drench also contains MOS (mannan oligosaccharides) helps normalize the gut microflora and supports the immune system and enzymes to generate a more rapid digestive response.  

Using this drench as you process the calves at weaning helps keep their gut healthy and functioning. We know that 70% of the immune response starts within the digestive system, so a healthy gut will lead to a healthy animal.  

Step 2: VitaFerm® Stress Tubs with the Vita Charge Technology  

VitaFerm Stress Tubs with the Vita Charge Technology help eliminate stress when offered to calves 14 to 21 days post-weaning. This tub for cattle is designed to support digestive health and intake and contains Vita Charge Technology including Amaferm and MOS. It also contains a probiotic to help restore the gut microbiome. The Stress Tubs are not minerals but can work along with your mineral program.  

The Vita Charge Technology, found in the Cattle Drench and Stress Tubs, contains a unique blend of ingredients to help support animal health before, during, or after stress. Every product with Vita Charge Technology contains an exact amount of B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, zinc, MOS, and Amaferm. 

In addition, a precisely defined salt-to-sugar ratio was developed and incorporated into the technology to support hydration. This combination provides an undeniable impact on livestock under stress  

Step 3: Gain Smart®   

Gain Smart® is a line of free-choice vitamin and mineral supplements for stocker cattle that promotes healthy, economical pounds. With four different formulas based on your management scenarios, this mineral is designed to maximize efficient gain.  

Gain Smart contains Amaferm, organic copper, iodine, and zinc for maximum bioavailability and hoof health. It also provides nutritional support for a healthy immune system.  

It can be fed as a loose mineral or mixed into a ration.  

Get Your BioZyme Products Today!  

Are you looking to incorporate these three products into your weaning program? You can buy BioZyme products from one of our dealers. Find a BioZyme dealer near you. Gain Smart products are easy to use. Discover the one best for you. 

Maybe you want some more information about the return on your investment when using Gain Smart? Check out our cost calculators to see how Gain Smart and Amaferm can help your bottom line! 

Do you want to stay up to date with news about health and nutrition for your calves? Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter.  

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