Summer weaning can be a trying ordeal for young livestock, said David Fernandez, Ph.D, Extension livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
“When it comes to cattle, producers can greatly reduce the stress of weaning on calves through fenceline weaning,” said Fernandez, the interim assistant dean of academic programs for the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.
Calves, lambs and kids born in the spring must be weaned, which can result in a stressful situation – both for young animals as well as for livestock producers.
“With fenceline weaning, calves are separated from their dams by a fence, meaning they can still see, hear and even contact their dams. The close proximity reduces the stress on the calves, which make little or no noise compared to the nearly constant bawling they would make if the females were out of sight.”
Fernandez said there is conflicting information on the benefits of fenceline weaning for small ruminants. From the little research that has been conducted, lambs don’t appear to experience more or less stress when weaned using this method compared to traditional weaning.
Weaning can also be stressful to does and ewes, he said. Milk is still being produced in the dam’s udder, which can become swollen and tender.
“In order to slow or stop the production of milk and reduce stress, some researchers recommend transferring dams to lower quality pastures or putting them on a drylot for a couple of days with low quality hay,” Fernandez said. “Others recommend withholding water from the dams for 24 hours, though this method should not be used if the weather is exceptionally hot.”
With little research available on the practicality of fenceline weaning for sheep and goats, producers can make a difference through their own on-farm research, Fernandez said.
In September 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Southern SARE) program will issue its annual call for proposals for producer grants.
“Producers who are awarded grants can try out new and innovative ideas on their farms,” he said. “These grants are not for beginning farmers and do not pay a farmer to farm, but rather, take some of the financial risk away from trying out a sustainable agriculture solution for research, education and outreach purposes. Once a project is complete, the results can be shared with farmers and researchers across the country.”
Individuals are eligible for up to $10,000, while groups of farmers and farmer organizations can receive up to $15,000 to implement sustainable agriculture practices.
SARE grant proposals will be due in November 2019, while grant funds for selected projects will be made available in March 2020. Producers can learn more about the application process at http://www.southernsare.org/Grants/Types-of-Grants/Producer-Grants.
“Producers should consider running their project ideas past an experienced grant writer,” Fernandez said. “University agriculture specialists or county Extension agents can help.”
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.
— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor with the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.