Yard weaning of beef-breed calves is growing in popularity in New Zealand as a way of improving ease of handling, but there is little scientific literature regarding the practice. This experiment examined the effects of yard weaning versus paddock weaning with and without human contact on liveweight gain and behaviour. Paddock-weaned calves lost more live weight in the first sev-en days after weaning (-1.19 ± 0.17 kg/d versus -0.60 ± 0.16 kg/d; P=0.01) than yard-weaned calves but live weight was similar between treatments 42 days after weaning (D42). Yard-weaned calves tended to be less reactive than paddock-weaned calves on D7 (2.16 ± 0.28 versus 2.92 ± 0.33; P= 0.07, where one is least reactive and five is most reactive), but there were no differences in reactivity on D42. Faecal corticosterone concentrations were similar between weaning location, however, calves with minimal human contact had higher faecal corticosterone concentrations 48 hours after weaning than did calves with daily human contact (27.6 ± 2.11 ng/ml versus 18.6 ± 2.11 ng/ml; P<0.01), regardless of location. There were short-term advantages in live weight and heart rate associated with yard weaning of beef-breed calves, but these did not persist to D42.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 77, Rotorua, 8-12, 2017
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