4 rea­sons to try YARD WEAN­ING

Yard wean­ing is a se­cure, short-term, but ef­fec­tive method of wean­ing calves.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Your Better Farming Guide - RUTH REN­NER

The idea of yard wean­ing is to get calves used to hu­mans and min­imise stress dur­ing wean­ing. Re­search in Aus­tralia and the USA, where calves are yard weaned and then moved into large feed­lots, has found this re­sults in: • cat­tle that are calmer and eas­ier to han­dle over their life­time; • re­duced chance of dam­age to peo­ple or equip­ment; • in­creased chance of su­pe­rior early weight gain; • yard-weaned calves have half the dis­ease rate of pad­dock weaned calves - cat­tle are more likely to suf­fer from res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease if they are stressed so cat­tle that stay calmer in stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, like yard­ing for drench­ing, are less likely to fall ill.

SMALL NZ TRI­ALS

have found the weight gains are about the same whether calves are weaned on pas­ture or in yards, but the yard sys­tem still has ad­van­tages. It did sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove the tem­per­a­ment of the wean­ers, and cat­tle were eas­ier and safer to han­dle in the yards as they got older, and eas­ier to muster.

It is a good way to in­tro­duce un­fa­mil­iar feeds to wean­ers, eg baleage, grains etc, which may be fed out later in their life.

THE CONS

• A con­ta­gious dis­ease, eg pink­eye or BVD, is more likely to spread quickly in the con­fines of a yard. • Yards quickly turn to muddy bogs in wet weather or if ground con­di­tions are not ideal.

colum­nist Jane Bellerby has been us­ing the yard wean­ing wean­ing­method­method for sev­eral years and says it

works well in their sit­u­a­tion with bought- bought-inin calves.

WE’VE BEEN yard wean­ing for sev­eral years now, thanks to my brother Guy who sug­gested it would make our lives eas­ier. He’s right: yard wean­ing has been a fan­tas­tic ad­di­tion to our stock han­dling skillset.

Prior to this, we had chased ‘wild’ beast­ies around our and the neigh­bour’s pad­docks, amid lots of puff­ing, much swear­ing, and on­go­ing is­sues with skitty, fence- hop­ping an­i­mals.

Now when we buy in new young stock, they come off the truck and go straight into a se­cure yard, even if they come with a “yeah, sure they’re quiet” rep­u­ta­tion. They also get their only-ever squirt of drench as we cross graze with horses which means a min­i­mal worm count for both bovines and equines.

We keep them yarded for about three days and nights or so, and pro­vide am­ple hay and wa­ter. At least twice each day, but usu­ally more of­ten, we go to the yards to feed out more hay and spend time wan­der­ing among the an­i­mals.

By Day 3-4 the cat­tle are look­ing for­ward to see­ing us as they now equate us with food and are at ease with us mov­ing among them in the yard. We do have them a bit hun­gry when we first let them out so they are fo­cussed on set­tling down to eat­ing grass, not hooning around the pad­dock.

The yard gets mucky and it’s not great in wet weather, but the pay­off for the next 18 months the cat­tle are with us is well worth it. They are calm, bid­dable, easy to shift around and han­dle, and quickly pack on the weight.

An­other bonus is that if they are not al­ready savvy about elec­tric fences, they learn quickly with­out go­ing through tapes be­cause they are in a calm state. A good belt of power go­ing through the fence means one or two shocks is all they ever get.

We only run a few stock but I’m told yard wean­ing works for much larger mobs as well, a win-win sce­nario all-round.

Cas­tra­tion is a vi­tal tool in the man­age­ment of male live­stock. You want to stop the pro­duc­tion of testos­terone, and the an­i­mal's abil­ity to breed, but there are other ad­van­tages: • steers and wethers are much eas­ier and safer to han­dle than bulls or rams which can be­come very dan­ger­ous an­i­mals; • it pre­vents un­wanted sex­ual ac­tiv­ity and ac­ci­den­tal mat­ings; • the meat from bulls and rams is gen­er­ally tougher and darker and can have an un­pleas­ant taint. A SE­DATED CALF, wait­ing for a vet to sur­gi­cally re­move a testis from within the body as it never de­scended. Never leave one tes­ti­cle be­hind or you cre­ate a 'stag', an an­i­mal which looks like it has been cas­trated, but which will be­have like a bull. He would prob­a­bly not be fer­tile.

The usual method of cas­tra­tion (and tail dock­ing for lambs) used in this coun­try in­volves the ap­pli­ca­tion of a small rub­ber ring to the neck of the scro­tum. The rings are sold for use on calves and lambs and are ap­plied with a four-pronged tool called an elas­tra­tor which stretches the band suf­fi­ciently to fit over the an­i­mal's scro­tum (or lamb's tail). The ring is left in place, re­strict­ing the top, with the testes safely in­side the scro­tum. It must be done when the an­i­mals are small so that the pain in­flicted is kept to a min­i­mum and the re­sult­ing wound is small.

Ide­ally it should be done any time from 12 hours af­ter birth* so as to al­low time for bond­ing and colostrum in­take be­fore in­flict­ing pain, and be­fore the an­i­mal is four weeks old. The ear­lier the bet­ter.

Lit­tle ram lambs' tes­ti­cles grow sur­pris­ingly quickly, much faster than their bovine coun­ter­parts – if you leave THIS PHOTO was taken four weeks af­ter cas­tra­tion. The sper­matic cords some­times do not de­cay suf­fi­ciently and cause the dead scro­tum to re­main at­tached, pulling deeply into the body. While that does not cause ob­vi­ous pain, this calf de­vel­oped an in­fec­tion above the cas­tra­tion site. Usu­ally move­ment will cause the scro­tum to de­tach, but in this case it did not and we had to cut it free.

them too long, you'll miss your chance! More than once I've threaded first one large testis through the ring and then the other, be­cause they were too large to go through to­gether.

Calves are a lit­tle more for­giv­ing in

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