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Plastic Nose-Tab Helps Wean Calves
David Harrington, Guymon, Okla., is one of a growing number of cattlemen adopting what's called a "weaning flap" for beef calves.
  The idea is to wean calves in two steps - first denying them milk for a few days by use of the nose flap, and then removing the device and separating the calves from their mother. Both cows and calves are said to be less disturbed by this weaning process compared to calves weaned by conventional methods.  
  The plastic nose-tab weans calves by preventing nursing, but doesn't put them through the stress of taking them away from their mothers. The anti-sucking device looks somewhat like a big bread tab. It's clipped to the partition between the animal's nostrils to prevent access to the teat at weaning time. The procedure is painless (the device doesn't pierce the septum) and the calf can still graze and drink water normally.
  The two-stage weaning process was invented by Derek Haley as one of his studies to earn his Ph. D. He's with the Alberta Ag, Food, and Rural Development, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.  
  After separation, the cow and her calf normally spend a lot of time and energy pacing and calling out for one another when they could be eating and ruminating. As a result of weaning stress, some calves get sick and need to be treated for health problems.
  Harrington, who runs 70 cows, has used the nose flaps for three sets of calves. He says that in 10 days of running together after inserting the flaps the calves "don't know they're being weaned". After separating them from the cows, the calves will walk the fence for a day and it's over. This reduction of stress is better for both mother and calf.
  To insert the nose flaps, Harrington has to use a livestock chute. He leaves the flaps in the noses for one to two weeks. Removing the flaps isn't so much of a deal. He will just crowd the calves and pull them out.
  The word on flaps is getting around. Haley says at least 800 producers have already used them on some 112,000 calves.
  Nose Flaps, called QuietWean, are available from: JDA Livestock Innovations Ltd., P.O. Box 25037, Saskatoon, Sask., Canada S7K 8B7 (ph 306 262-6618; quietwean @hotmail.com; www.quietwean.com).

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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #1