California researchers weaned calves with only a fence (Fenceline) separating them from their dams. These were compared to calves weaned totally separate (Separate) from dams. Calf behaviors were monitored for five days following weaning. Fenceline calves and cows spent approximately 60 percent and 40 percent of their time, respectively within 10 feet of the fence during the first two days.

During the first three days, fenceline calves bawled and walked less, and ate and rested more, but these differences disappeared by the fourth day. All calves were managed together starting seven days after weaning. After two weeks, fenceline calves had gained 23 pounds more than separate calves. This difference persisted since, after 10 weeks, fenceline calves had gained 110 pounds (1.57 pound per day), compared to 84 pounds(1.20 pounds per day) for separate calves. There was no report of any differences in sickness, but calves that eat more during the first days after weaning should stay healthier.

A follow-up study demonstrated similar advantages of fenceline contact when calves were weaned under drylot conditions and their dams had access to pasture. To wean and background, even for short periods, fenceline weaning should be considered. (Source: Price and co-workers. Abstracts 2002 Western Section of American Society of Animal Science.)

During the hot summer days, having adequate water available for the cattle is a MUST. Experienced ranchers that utilize fenceline weaning have found that having plenty of water in the region where the cattle are congregated can be a challenge. Plan ahead before you begin the weaning process to be certain that sufficient water can be supplied to both sides of the fence. end_mark


—Glenn Selk is an Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist. Excerpts from Cow/Calf Corner e-newsletter.