The Effects of Low Stress Cattle Handling and Weaning Training on Post-Weaning Weight Gain and Calf Activity

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Virginia Tech

The objective of this study was to assess the effect of low stress (LS) handling of beef calves on weight gain and calf activity associated with the weaning process. Cattle were of Angus and Angus cross breeding from two separate herds in Virginia. Handlers for the LS groups went through a short training session. Handlers for the Control (C) groups did not have any special training and handled their group as they would have with no adjustments. Handling and calf activity were monitored each time (6 times) the cows were worked from calving through one month post-weaning. Weights were taken from birth to one month post-weaning. During the week post-weaning the C calves averaged a gain of 4.38 lbs. and the LS calves averaged a gain of 16.94 lbs. One month post-weaning the C calves averaged a gain of 49.01 lbs., while the LS calves averaged a gain of 68.6 lbs. This showed a difference (p < 0.0001) between handling method for weight gain in calves for one week and one month post-weaning. Pedometers were used to assess calf activity post-weaning. Steps per hour (SPH) for the week post-weaning was numerically higher for those calves handled conventionally and not trained for weaning. The C calves averaged 1048 to 1629 SPH for the first three days, where the LS calves averaged 443 to 644 SPH for the first three days. Additionally, the artificial insemination conception rates (AICR) were calculated in each herd and treatment groups compared, however results were equivocal. This study demonstrated that handling cattle using low stress techniques can make significant improvements with regard to weaning weights and has potential to increase other areas of production in beef cattle.

Low Stress, Beef Cattle, Stockmanship, weaning