Early Rumen Development in Sheep and Cattle at Weaning... What does it mean to you?

The Rumen: A Digestive Powerhouse Weaning marks a critical transition period in the lives of sheep and cattle, as it entails the gradual shift from milk-based nutrition to solid feed consumption. One of the most significant changes during this period is the development of the rumen, a specialized stomach compartment responsible for the fermentation and breakdown of complex plant materials. Early rumen development is a pivotal phase that directly affects the animals' ability to efficiently digest and utilise forage-based diets. During the suckling phase, the rumen is undeveloped, as milk is the primary source of nutrients. However, with the onset of weaning, there is a shift in dietary composition, prompting the need for significant rumen development to accommodate the transition to solid feeds. The quality of care and nutrition that young lambs and calves receive (or do not receive) at weaning time, directly affects the life-time efficiency of this potential “Powerhouse.” Stages of Rumen Development 1. Pre-Ruminant Phase: At birth, the oesophageal groove allows milk to bypass the underdeveloped rumen and flow directly into the abomasum (true stomach). This bypass mechanism ensures that milk proteins are properly digested and absorbed before the rumen becomes fully functional. 2. Initiation of Solid Feeds: As weaning begins, the intake of solid feeds stimulates microbial growth in the rumen. This microbial population plays a vital role in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fibre, which would otherwise be undigestible by the animal. The microbes gradually set up a symbiotic relationship with the developing ruminant, aiding in the fermentation and digestion of these materials. 3. Rumen Development: Over a brief period, the internal surface area of the rumen increases through the growth of papillae - finger-like projections that enhance nutrient absorption. Factors Influencing Rumen Development Several factors influence the pace and success of early rumen development in sheep and cattle during weaning: 1. Dietary Composition: The introduction of solid feeds that are rich in starch and fibre encourages rumen development and fermentation. 2. Microbial Colonization: The establishment of a diverse and stable microbial population in the rumen is crucial. 3. Genetics: Genetic factors can influence the rate of rumen development. Some breeds may show faster rumen maturation than others. 4. Management Practices: Proper management practices, such as reducing stress and maximising nutrition contribute to the smooth and rapid transition of the animal's digestive system into a system that can be significantly more efficient for life! Summary and where to from here? Early rumen development during the weaning phase in sheep and cattle is a dynamic process that shapes the animals' ability to digest fibrous plant materials more effectively for life. What does this mean? It means a more efficient animal on the farm that can grow or reproduce better, all on less feed. A rumen that can absorb more nutrient per mouthful of feed, will gain more energy and protein that leads to greater resistance to parasites and disease, as well as more efficient production of meat, milk, wool, and progeny – all the saleable product for a livestock enterprise. For more information, contact your Elders Branch or call your Elders Livestock Production Advisor.

Winning at Weaning: CATTLE

Weaning is without doubt one of the most stressful and important times in the lifecycle of an animal. Done well, a calf can be equipped with the foundation to reach its maximum genetic potential, via optimum nutrition and stress management. Prepared cattle are healthier, heavier, and more productive.
When? With this advanced nutritional management, calves may be weaned from as early as 8-12 weeks old. This is particularly useful in drought situations when resources are scarce. More commonly, calves are weaned from 5-8 months of age, weighing 150kg or more. The decision of when to wean should be based on age/weight of the calf, available pasture quantity and quality and the cows body condition. Why? Weaning is a beneficial practice that provides the calf with a balanced energy & protein diet whilst developing the rumen allowing an increase in feed utilisation. This also drastically reduces the energy & water requirement of the Heifer/Cow resulting in less feed & water required to gain condition score for the upcoming joining/calving period. Body condition score of a cow has significant bearing on her likelihood to get back in calf on time. It is far more economical to feed a split unit (i.e., cow and calf separate) than a cow/calf unit. At a time when the calf’s rumen has developed, milk is no longer an efficient way to feed the calf, as the process of turning grass into milk chews up energy and protein. Along with feed efficiency, cattle that are calm and handled are easier on yards and fences, more suitable for feedlots and at less risk of dark cutting from transport stress. Yard weaning In mobs of one hundred or less and in paddock groups, weaners may be weaned in yards for 5-7 days. During this time with short, regular, and positive lessons calves should learn to walk past the handler one at a time, through gates and be moved around a yard as a mob by person, dog or horse without excessive force or noise. Ideally weaners should be comfortable enough to lay down and ruminate with a handler in the pen. Weaning is also a good opportunity to prepare and further develop the rumen. To maximise growth rates, weaners require a high energy diet with 16-18% protein content. A ration of decent quality hay with either a weaning pellet, or quality hay with cereal grain plus a protein meal are good options. A successful, smooth transition to grazing lies in good preparation, meaning that ideally, weaners will have been exposed to everything whilst still on their mothers – this is termed as ‘imprinting’ and includes familiarity of yards, feeding infrastructure and all relevant feedstuffs. Health considerations At weaning, a calf should receive an effective drench, a second (booster) 5 or 7in1 vaccination, an injectable or dietary mineral supplement and the first or second BRD vaccine (Bovilis MH+/-IBR, Bovi-Shield MH-one). This will set the calf up with a strong immune system to face the challenges that weaning and life thereafter present and in doing so, create a more productive & profitable product for the producer. For more information, contact your Elders Branch or call your Elders Livestock Production Advisor.

Weaning calves, what's the best method??

Calm cattle win out

27 January 2017

Shane HarrisSNAPSHOT: Shane and Claire Harris

Location: Dumbalk North, 25km south-east of Leongatha, South Gippsland, Victoria

Area: 810ha (owned and leased)

Enterprise: Angus and prime lamb breeding and cattle trading

Livestock: 2,000 cattle (600 breeders, 1,400 trade stock), 1,600 ewes, 2,000 lambs

Pasture: Ryegrass and clover

Soil: Red, grey clay and sand peat

Rainfall: 1,075mm

Weaning cattle using advanced training techniques may take time and commitment, but South Gippsland producer Shane Harris is convinced it produces the best results.

Shane and his wife Claire, of ‘Harris Farms’, took part in an MLA-supported on-farm weaning trial that compared techniques to see which were best at quietening cattle and reducing weight loss.

Claire, who is also an Agriculture Victoria beef industry extension officer, was involved in the experiment design and data collection.

Shane and Claire put 100 Angus weaners in the trial (divided into two groups of 50) and compared their traditional paddock weaning method with advanced training, a technique that relies on the use of well-trained dogs and a sound understanding of the concepts of pressure and relief.

They had previously favoured paddock weaning, as they felt it avoided some of the respiratory and pink eye issues sometimes encountered when confining cattle, but the trial proved otherwise.

Shane said at the end of the trial the two groups were "chalk and cheese".

“The paddock-weaned mob were left on good pasture and were basically untouched, while the advanced training mob were worked with dogs for half-an-hour to an hour each day,” he said.

“By the end, the paddock-weaned mob weighed about the same or slightly better, but they weren’t quiet at all.

“The advanced training mob, which was also moved through the yards and crush as part of their routine, were really quiet – you could almost touch them in the paddock.”

Shane said that ‘quietness’ was also reflected in flight speed data, with the advanced training mob recording slower times than the paddock-weaned mob after the first week.

Making changes

In the two years since the trial, Shane and Claire have embraced advanced training and now use their dogs for all their stock movements.

They have also moved away from injectable drenches to pour-ons, as they believe too many needles upset young stock.

“It’s really important that those first experiences with us are good experiences,” he said.

The heifer weaners from the trial have now had their first calves, and Shane is convinced that sound training at weaning sets the animal up for life.

“If we have to pull a heifer, we walk her down the road to the yards,” he said.

“The steers put on weight fast because they’re calm and, now word is getting out how quiet our cattle are, we’re getting more inquiry from buyers.”

Shane and Claire breed about 60 commercial bulls each year, based on Queensland and New Zealand bloodlines, with their focus on a more compact type.

“When people come to look at our bulls they’re really impressed with how easy they are to work with and their calmness,” Shane said.

“We’ve also applied the same principles to our sheep and we are seeing the same pleasing results.”

More information:

Shane and Claire Harris E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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National Vendor Declarations- what to put on them.NVD's

We are constantly having to get our clients to redo or amend their vendor dec's!!!!!! It's frustrating and can cost the vendor big money if they're vendor dec is incorrect or fails to answer every question .

Description of cattle; put in the breed , the sex breakup , the description ie cow bull steer hfr stag etc, the total head number including the break up of different descriptions . Do not put their NLIS tag number!!!  It's not applicable . 

NLIS  devices is the number of devices on the cattle!!

question 4 "has the owner stated above owned these cattle since their birth" - it's pretty simple either yes or no-not both, if it's no put the lowest time in ie A- under two months, B 2-6 months etc

Question 9 put Russian and Saudi  eligible. Russian eligible means that the cattle haven't had penicillin /antibiotics in the last 110 days and Saudi eligible means that the cattle have never in their life been fed animal fats . If applicable add that the cattle have never been treated antibiotics .