When it comes to weaning calves, it is better to take it slow.
New research published in the January Journal of Dairy Science looked at the effect of weaning calves abruptly or over a four-day, 10-day or 22-day period. The study consisted of 40 calves, housed in groups of four, fed up to 12 kilograms (26.4 pounds) of milk per day by automated feeders. Study results showed that calves weaned over the 22-day period drank the least milk and ate the most starter, but these calves had the lowest total digestible energy intake and weight gains. During the nine days following weaning, the calves weaned over 22 days and 10 days ate more starter and had better weight gains than abruptly weaned calves and those weaned over four days. Abruptly weaned calves lost weight during this time period. Gradual weaning improved starter intake, but because of reduced milk availability, this resulted in reduced total digestible energy intake before weaning. Weaning over 10 days resulted in the best overall weight gains.
Read the abstract from the January Journal of Dairy Science.