Weaning

Weaning Weight

Weaning weight should be collected on a high quality digital or mechanical individual animal scale and it should be recorded in pounds.

The weight should never be estimated and should be recorded to the nearest whole pound if possible. If recording the weight to the nearest whole pound is not feasible, then it can be acceptable to record the weight to the nearest 2-pound increment. Weaning weight should never be recorded to the nearest five pound or other larger increment. Weaning weight should never be estimated by averaging a group weight.

Weaning contemporary group is a group of calves that are of the same sex, are similar in age, and have been raised in the same management group (same location on the same feed and pasture, at the same time) and weaned and weighed on the same day. Contemporary groups should include as many cattle as can be accurately compared. However, if, for example, first-calf heifers are given preferential treatment (better feed) prior to weaning their calves, then these calves should be designated into a separate contemporary group than the calves from mature cows.

Weights should be taken on the same day for an entire contemporary group. Especially for large contemporary groups, water should be provided to calves penned-up prior to weighing so that there is no effect due to differences in dehydration between the first and last calves weighed.

For adjusted 205 day weaning weights the AWA required age range for collecting weaning weights on calves is 160 to 250 days of age.

Hip Height

Hip height converted to frame score is a linear measurement that helps cattle producers evaluate lean-to-fat ratio potential of an individual animal in a performance program. No one frame size will be best for all feed resources, breeding systems, and markets. Large-framed animals tend to be heavier at all weights, leaner, and later maturing. Small-framed animals tend to be lighter, fatter, and earlier maturing. Frame scores can be monitored to maintain body size, fatness level, and maturing rate within the optimum ranges dictated by the resources, breeding system, and market specifications of a herd. Frame score is a convenient way of describing the skeletal size of cattle. With appropriate height and growth curves, most animals usually maintain the same frame score throughout their life, regardless of when they are evaluated. However, frame scores may change for animals that mature earlier or later than average for their breed. The recommended site for hip height measurement is a point directly over the hooks. For adjusted 205 day hip height the AWA required age range for collecting measurements on calves is 160 to 250 days of age. (BIF)

Dam Weight, Height, Body Condition Score

Mature weight should be collected on an individual animal scale and should be recorded to the nearest pound. The weight should be collected on a high-quality digital or mechanical individual animal scale.

Mature height should be measured when the cow is standing on a flat surface with her hips level, and height is measured in inches. The measuring stick should be perpendicular to the ground with the height measured directly over the hooks.

Body condition scoring (BCS) is a useful tool to estimate the body composition and energy reserves of beef cows. The BCS scale ranges from 1-9 with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese. Cows that calve in a BCS of 5 or greater breed back earlier, have more vigorous calves at birth and have more, higher quality colostrum. Ideally, scores should be recorded 60-90 days pre-calving, at calving and at weaning. Taking scores at 60-90 days pre-calving allows enough time for adjustment of the nutrition program prior to calving if necessary.

Scores recorded at or around the time of weaning are used in combination with cow weight recorded at the same time to calculate adjusted mature cow weights. Shrunk body weight should increase or decrease by approximately 7.1% for each unit change in BCS. For example, a mature cow that weighs 1,200 pounds with a BCS of 5 should require 85 pounds of weight gain to achieve BCS 6 and 85 pounds of weight loss to drop to a BCS of 4. (BIF)

Figure 1 Image courtesy of University of Nebraska

Following is a description of the 1 to 9 body condition scoring system where a BCS 1 cow is extremely thin and emaciated and a BCS 9 cow is very fat and obese. Assign a cow a condition score in whole numbers (3, 4, 5, etc.).

Temperament (Disposition, Docility)

Important behaviors to beef cattle production include reactions to processing through a squeeze chute, maternal instincts at calving, newborn calf vigor, bull serving capacity, and foraging behavior. Because these are distinctly different behaviors, different strategies are necessary to quantify differences among animals. Among the most important of behavioral traits, temperament reflects the ease with which animals respond to handling, treatment, and routine management. Animals with disposition problems are a safety risk to handlers, themselves, and other animals in the herd. Disposition affects handling equipment requirements, operation liability exposure, Beef Quality Assurance, and performance.

A method of temperament measurement is Pen Score. Animals are penned in a small lot (approximately 12 feet X 24 feet) in small groups (n~=5) and approached by two observers. The individual animal’s response to human approach is scored on a scale from 1 to 5 as follows:

1. Non-aggressive (docile) Walks slowly, can be approached closely by humans, not excited by humans or facilities
2. Slightly Aggressive Runs along fences, will stand in corner if humans stay away, may pace fence
3. Moderately Aggressive Runs along fences, head up and will run if humans move closer, stops before hitting gates and fences, avoids humans
4. Aggressive Runs, stays in back of group, head high and very aware of humans, may run into fences and gates even with some distance, will likely run into fences if alone in pen
5. Very Aggressive Excited, runs into fences, runs over humans and anything else in path, “crazy”

Weaning Temperament scores should be collected at approximately the same time as weaning weights are collected. (BIF)

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