Getting the Right Start Weaning

Oct 18, 2023

As the pasture season comes to another close we as producers are brought to another steppingstone within cattle production. With our pastures reaching maturity and starting to go backwards we will be bringing cows and calves home to prepare for feeding season when weaning is complete. 

Getting calves started on feed is crucial for their overall performance for the remainder of their production life.  It has been proved that if cattle get started on feed faster when weaned, we can have better gains within our feedlot days.  

So what are some challenges to getting our calves off on the right hoof?  

  • Offering the right feed. 
    • Each producer has different needs and processes on their operations. Selecting the right starter feed for your operation is imperative. We want to be offering a palatable feed in the bunk, making the calves want to come back, keep eating and stay healthy.  
  • Multiple water sources. 

    • Not all calves have been exposed in a pasture to an automatic waterer. They would not know where their water source is if it didn't look like a pond. If an automatic waterer is the only source in your weaning pen consider putting another tank inside to ensure the transition from pond/tank to automatic waterer is smooth and easy. This will help prevent calves from going off of feed, because who wants to eat the same as dry cereal? 

  • Utilizing multiple options of tubs 

    • Tubs are a great thing to add into a weaning pen. Tubs such as stress care tubs and wind and rain availa 4 mineral are great to have in the back of the pen for those timid calves to lick on. Like us, if we were to holler the loudest we could during the K-State football games we would end up being hoarse the next day and find relief in a cough drop.  The same goes for calves when bawling for mom during the first week of weaning. When calves go and lick the tubs they produce extra saliva, which in turn is a buffer for the rumen stomach and helps coat the throat. The tubs give the calves a source of vitamins and minerals to assist with keeping their immune systems on the strong side. 

  • Set the pen up for success. 

    • Having a bunk set perpendicular  to the side of the pen making calves stop walking circles. Another option is to put all the other feed, hay rings, tubs and/or waterers spaced out throughout  the pen. This gives the calves an opportunity to stop walking, eat some hay, drink some water, or lick a tub. Stopping calves from continuing to walk circles will also let them gain those pounds instead of walking them off. 


With the tools and feeds we have developed throughout the years to assist us in gaining an effective  and efficient  way to wean our calves, we can help start your calves on the right track and make weaning an easy process. 

The feed options that best suit weaning programs for best are the Precon Complete.  Precon is a very palatable feed pellet that is composed of multiple health supporting nutrients.  Precon contains Availa 4 microminerals to support the immune system of nutritionally challenged and stressed cattle, which is exactly what happens when we wean calves. It also provides an adequate amount of roughage for starting cattle if initial forages are limited as well as the RX3 supplement for added support in immune systems in the calves.   

Another starter option for weaning calves is the Stress Care 5 from Purina. Stress care 5 is fed on a constant amount of 5 pounds per head daily, along with good quality forage.  Stress care 5 is a palatable pellet that also contains the RX3 compound, availa 4 addition, and is utilized for those customers who have a better forage source at weaning. 

The newest addition over the last 5 years into Purina’s starter feeds has been the RX3 Immune support technology.  This is a blend of prebiotics, probiotics, and plant extracts that aids the calves in fighting against respiratory challenges they may have during the weaning period. Studies have shown that on average calves fed a starter feed gained on average, 6 more pounds than a control group within a 30 day window.  These calves fed the starter with RX3 also had less variation in average daily gain and had half of the morbidity and number of calves treated 1 time when they compared with the control group. 

All these options are pelleted to reduce sorting, create hungry calves to keep them gaining, and a calf that is eating is less likely to get sick.  We can give them all the right tools to set them and you up for success. 

Looking to discuss the option best for you on how to proceed with weaning time challenges? We are here to assist you and give you the best options to start feeding off on the right hoof.  Call us today with your weaning feed questions. 

Article provided by, Katelin Hendricks, Scale and Counter Specialist.