Effects of weaning beef cattle in two stages or by abrupt separation on nasal abrasions, behavior, and weight gain
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The effects of traditional (n = 103) and two-stage weaning (n = 89) on nasal abrasions, behaviour, and weight gain were evaluated in a total of 192 cow-calf pairs. Two-stage calves were prevented from suckling by fitting nose flaps for 7 days before separation from their mothers. Nasal abrasions caused by the devices were assessed by scoring the irritations of the nasal septum at removal and 1 week later. The behaviour of 20 calves was observed for 3 days before and 4 days after weaning and vocalisations of the cows after separation were recorded. Nasal abrasions were found in more than 95% of the animals at removal, whereas 30% of the animals showed heavy bleeding and 10% suffered from even worse injuries. One week later, 45% of the calves still showed irritations. Cows of the traditional group vocalised 19.2 and those of the two-stage group 3.7 times per hour (P < 0.001). Compared with the pre-weaning period, calves spent more time walking on Days 1 and 2 after weaning (P < 0.01). However, the duration was significantly lower in two-stage than in traditionally weaned animals (P < 0.01). After removal of the devices, the time spent for walking increased again for 2 days. An effect on the weight gain of the calves was not noted. In conclusion, two-stage weaning positively influenced the post-weaning behaviour, but the nose flaps caused heavy nasal abrasions in the calves. Therefore, the design of the devices and the period they are fitted should be modified to minimise nasal abrasions.