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. It 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 presentation.

Topics covered during this presentation include:

  • benefits
  • challenges
  • nutritional considerations
  • 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.


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

Producer case study

Getting ahead in drought through early weaning and planning

Early weaning: additional resources

Cow and weaner management options – recorded webinar

Weaner management in northern beef herds

Assessing options for drought response – mortality risk & early weaning