Introduction to the challenge addressed
Ways of improving the Animal welfare of beef cattle in rearing and finishing units.
Grassfed Aberdeen-Angus farm, Estonia, Karksi Nuia , Vilsi Angus OÜ . 70 + suckler cows. Selling breeding animals and finishing bulls and heifers on pasture
Description of Innovation
The calving season on this farm ranges between March and June.
From September at the latest the farmer divides the cows into two herds, with bull calf herds on separate grassland and female calf herds on separate pastures. The calves are moved separately to the barn with the sucklers until the end of October, the end of the grazing period. There is a separate unit for the calves in the barn, with sufficient feeding areas for silage and hay, deep bedding, etc., close to the area for the cows, but separated by calf passage gates. On the first day, calves are herded into their own area so that they can learn to go there more quickly. After that, they pass the gate voluntarily (see the on-farm video below). The suckler cows do not get silage, they are on hay. The calves will continue to suckle under the cows for about a month until the bigger ones can no longer fit through the gates. Then the gate is closed in groups of 3 (according to age and size). The cows are still next to their calves, but they are no longer allowed to suckle. On average the calf weaning weight is then 400+ kg ( 400-407 kg).
Impact on farm performance
This good practice gives animals and farmers less stress during the weaning period.
Less cost for feed as the young animals grow better, less veterinry cost, reduction of illness, better animal comfort. Better daily growth for weaned animals and overall animal welfare. The breeding period and fattening period is shorter as there is less stress for both - for cows and weaned calves.
Farmer comment (for Good Practices)
" It is good to see and hear that our animals are happy and the gains are good. We have been using this weaning method for 3 years now and it has had a very positive effect on the growth and health of the animals. We no longer hear the usual moaning of the animals during weaning." Tiina Tomson, Vilsi Angus OÜ.
Link to the referred aberdeen-angus farm in Estonia:
Experience report on fenceline weaning for calves: