Making sense of early weaning

Weaning is one of the most effective management tools available to manage your breeder’s body condition. Removing the need to produce milk for a calf in the early dry season is equivalent to providing the breeder with a supplement of up to 2 kg of grain or 3 kg of fortified molasses every day.

Early weaning, when done effectively, can result in better overall breeder condition, higher conception rates and lower costs of breeder supplementary feeding. Early weaning is practiced most commonly in drought affected areas and refers to the weight (age) of the calf and not to the time of muster.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries GrazingFutures team, together with Désirée Jackson, have produced a practical and informative early weaning presentation.

Topics covered during this presentation include:

  • benefits of early weaning
  • early weaning challenges
  • nutritional considerations
  • weaner management considerations
  • animal health and husbandry considerations.

You can watch the full recording or use the playlist below to jump to the start of a particular section within the presentation.  45:58; published 18 December 2019 by FutureBeefAu.

Additional resources

Full recording


  1. Disclaimer and Copyright
  2. Making sense of early weaning
  3. What is early weaning?
  4. Before starting an early weaning program
  5. Benefits of weaning to maintain breeder body condition score (BCS)
  6. Energy (ME) requirements varies for breeders
  7. Benefits to breeders using early weaning
  8. Challenges with early weaners
  9. Early weaning nutritional considerations
  10. The rumen and stomach
  11. Physiological changes in the calf
  12. Function of papillae in the rumen
  13. Microbes in the gut
  14. Microbial function depends on…
  15. Weaning management in the yards
  16. Weaner nutrition
  17. Nutritional problems
  18. What to wean?
  19. What is good hay?
  20. Quality of hay for weaners
  21. Segregation of weaners
  22. Feeding small calves (60-100kg)
  23. Potential feeds when pasture quality is poor
  24. Husbandry
  25. Keeping records
  26. Animal health
  27. Out in the paddock – now what?
  28. Intake – why is it important?
  29. Quality of pasture as affected by maturity
  30. Protein
  31. Energy
  32. Water intake
  33. Take-home messages

Producer case study

Getting ahead in drought through early weaning and planning