Early weaning of calves is one way to combat drought and lack of pasture.
If cows are dropping below 4.5 body condition score and pastures are not re-growing, this is a viable option to consider, says Mike Baker, beef cattle extension specialist at Cornell University.
A brief summary of some calculations on the cost of weaning 100 days early appear below.
Those calculations are based on these assumptions:
· Wean at 100 days instead of 200 days
· Cost of ration for early weaning or creep feeding cost $300 per ton
· Average daily gain of early weaned calf is 2.2 pounds
· Added ADG of creep-fed calf 1.2 pounds
· As-fed intake of early weaned calf and creep-fed calf is 10 pounds per day
· Dry-hay-equivalent cost of pasture is $50 per ton
· Cows whose calves are weaned early consume 25% less pasture
· 1,400-pound cows consume 2.5% of body weight (dry matter basis)
· 2% death loss in early weaned calves
Given the assumptions above, here are the expected results:
· Total feed and other costs to feed early weaned calf for 100 days - $182
· Total feed and other costs to creep feed calf for 100 days - $154
· Total pasture cost for cows that weaned calf early - $243
· Total pasture cost for cows with creep fed calf - $324
· Total cost cow and calf, early weaning - $425
· Total cost cow and calf, creep feeding - $478
· Weight of early weaned calf 100 days post weaning – 520 pounds
· Weight of creep fed calf at weaning – 600 pounds
· Break-even to cover cost, early weaning $0.82 per pound
· Break-even to cover cost, creep fed, $0.80 per pound
Alternately, if you are forced to feed hay and cost of it is $100 per ton here are reasonable expectations.
· Break-even to cover cost, early weaning $1.29 per pound
· Break-even to cover cost, creep fed, $1.34 per pound
Bottom line, depending on your situation, it is difficult to make the argument that creep feeding is a method of combating the drought, Baker says.
If you do nothing, however, the weaning weight of your calves will be lower than the early weaned or creep-fed calves, he says.
If you run out of pasture then the economics are much worse, not to mention the effect it may have on the cow from lowered BCS. Lower BCS results in lower pregnancy rate and higher winter feed costs to increase BCS for successful calving and subsequent re-breeding.