Take the Stress out of Weaning
Silent, stress-free weaning is achievable
NoseRing® – A Solution for Dairy Farmers by Abbey Kingdon
In 1997, Whole Concepts designed the NoseRing®, a low stress alternative for weaning calves in beef cattle herds. The product developed as a solution to the grazing planning problem of breaking up the herd.
The same year it hit the market, Paula and Matthew Beautlerk, who manage the Allegraine Jersey Dairies, in the Limpopo Province, for owner Dave Drewett, bought 30 NoseRings®. Allegraine Daries have been ordering every year since then. The Beautlerks manage a herd of 360 cows with 160 in milking.
The Beautlerks had something else in mind for the NoseRing®, as dairy calves aren’t kept with their mothers long enough to need a weaning device.
NoseRings® at the Allegraine Dairies are used to combat “blind quarter.” This loss of one quarter of a cow’s udder occurs when she’s suckled at three to four months of age by one of her group mates. The suckling induces a hormone imbalance in the heifer causing her to go through early puberty and this damages the udder, Matthew Beautlerk said.
The Allegraine calves are taken away from their mothers at birth, placed in a calf pen, where they are furnished with a little house and regular bottle feedings. The suckling problem starts when the calves graduate from the pen to group life, which includes the transition from milk to concentrates and grass.
“Once the calves are out of the pen, about ten percent show the inclination to suckle,” Beautlerk said. “One suckler can damage four to five udders.”
A NoseRing® is clamped on the sucklers in each group of calves at Allegraine. The ring fits into the calf’s nose by pushing the lugs into the nose, the stainless steel bolt is then tightened along with the electro galvanized wing nut until the ring is tight but can still move up and down, according to a 2001 Farmer’s Weekly article by Judy Richardson.
When the suckling calf goes for the udders of other heifers, the plastic spikes on the ring poke the suckled calf and it kicks at the source of irritation. Then the suckling cycle is broken.
“We’ve found (the NoseRing®) extremely useful. It’s going very well as they are easy to put in and easy to take out. It’s an absolute pleasure,” Beautlerk said.
Before the NoseRing®, the Beautlerks used wire and a steel plate. The wire is inserted through the membrane in the nose and fastened to the steel plate. This process includes more stress than using the NoseRing®. The calves’ feed intake dropped for two to three weeks using the wire and steel plate, Beautlerk said. With the NoseRing®, the calf gains weight continually instead of losing weight. The NoseRing® is secured in the noses of all heifers at Allegraine for three to 12 months. The NoseRings® are then removed and used on the next set of heifers. “Since we went with (the NoseRing®) we’ve been happy,” Beautlerk said.
Conventional use of the NoseRing® has also generated loyal users. Gustav Botes, manager of the Wesmark co-op in Vryburg and stud Manso Brahman farmer, has used the NoseRing® for five years. He saw the product in the co-op and decided to test it. He cautiously bought 30 NoseRings®. He tested the device on his herd. Then he bought 300 and never looked back.
With the NoseRing®, Botes lost the need to mend fences broken by cows and calves trying to reunite, he also stopped allotting extra space, water and feed to his weaning calves. Now weaning takes two to three minutes, Botes said. The calves are back with their mothers immediately after the NoseRing® is inserted. It stays for a month to a month and a half. The calf is not stressed, nor does it lose weight during the weaning process.
“Now it’s fun to wean, it’s relaxing,” Botes said.