University of Nebraska researchers conducted a trial comparing systems in which half of the calves from a group of 84 cows were weaned early, at 90 days of age, and the other half at a more normal age of 205 days. All the cattle were maintained in a drylot using the same ration of 60 percent distillers’ grains and 40 percent crop residue. The early weaned cows received 15 pounds of dry matter per cow per day and early weaned calves had free-choice access. The normal-weaned pairs were limit fed the total amount consumed by early weaned cows and calves.
Over the period from early to normal weaning, the early weaned cows gained 46 pounds more and were heavier at normal weaning time. However, body condition score did not differ. During the early to normal weaning period, normal-weaned calves gained 22 pounds more. Together, early weaned cows and calves consumed 23.5 pounds of dry matter per unit per day, slightly more than 22.3 pounds for normal-weaned pairs. The authors concluded that in this study, the data suggest weaned cows and calves require the same amount of feed as pairs together and early weaning does not reduce the feed energy needed to support the pair.