KNOWING whether you’re getting the right advice with a weaning program is sometimes hard to determine but Sundown Pastoral Company’s Matthew Monk says there are a couple of questions farmers can ask.
For starters, farmers could look for discrepancies between a program they’ve been given and the Sundown seven day weaning protocol, which explains the basic steps.
“Once the basics are right some advanced weaning can provide benefits,” Mr Monk said.
Mr Monk said the handling and acclimation side of the weaning process was also often understated, including its benefits down the supply chain.
A thorough training provider should also be able to offer on-farm visits during the farmer’s weaning program to help step the farmer through the process.
One business which had worked closely with Sundown, largely as a supplier of services and inputs across many aspects of Sundown’s production, was Grazag in Armidale.
Grazag animal health representative Ben Foster said the company’s relationship with the international animal nutrition and production management company Animal Logic Group (ALG) was a critical part of delivering access to the most advanced ruminant production management systems and technologies available.
Advanced weaning management was a key part of that and Grazag, in partnership with ALG, has trained large numbers of producers and service providers in the Armidale and surrounding regions adopting best practice protocols for weaning.
Mr Foster said Grazag puts about 100 farmers through weaning training a year, from which he estimated there was a 40 to 50 per cent initial uptake on-farm from those who attend.
“The aim is to raise awareness of what’s happening in the yard weaning world because a lot of the big operators that measure performance, particularly in the first 90 days, are targeting yard weaned cattle,” he said.
“That’s based on data telling them they’re anything up to half a kilo a day in weight gain better off in the first 90 days.”
Mr Foster said if Grazag was providing support to a beef producer who was new to the advanced yard weaning process, it was part of the company’s protocol to visit the farm to check the facilities and see if they could provide any recommendations based on the latest information regarding the importance of trough space, water supply and availability, the size of the yards and hay feeding facilities.
Mr Foster said instead of losing weight through the weaning process, producers could expect their animals to gain weight, with Grazag clients using the ALG advanced weaning system averaging 750 grams a day gain across the two to three weeks from the start of weaning.
“If they can get the calves properly weaned in four to five days this is ideal, because the longer they’re in the yards the more risk there is of them contracting coccidiosis and pinkeye.
“On that basis the rest of the program can be easily conducted in the paddock to achieve fantastic results,” Mr Foster said.
To conduct a full three-week program costs about $18 to $22 a head, depending on how much grain is added to the ration.
Later this year Sundown Pastoral Company plans to conduct a forum with agents in the New England to discuss the impacts of yard weaning.