As calves are introduced to pasture alfalfa and orchard grasses for the first time, their stomachs can become sensitive to digesting these new foods. There are many ways you can wean your own calves in a successful manner, for better health and higher survival rates as your weaning calves go through this crucial transition in their lives. Here are healthy foods you can introduce your young calves to to assist them in weaning off milk products.
Calves rumens are sensitive to new foods, so you want to introduce them first to fibrous-rich grasses that will help them digest solids easily. You also want to choose grasses that have lower levels of protein so calves can build muscle and energy without placing undue stress on their stomachs. Stick to high-quality alfalfa hay that has at least 30% fiber in it. Younger hay tends to be more fibrous than mature hay, so bale-feeding is discouraged for newly-weaned calves.
Sorghum grain is a gluten-free grain known for aiding in healthy digestion, so it is a great grain to add to a newly-weaned calf's diet. A proper mixture of grain will include up to 50% of this particular grain, with smaller amounts of loose corn, hay, and raw soybeans added to the mix. It's wise to add this diet when your calves have been properly introduced to pasture grasses so their stomachs are already used to 'foreign' foods.
As your calves begin to acclimate to their new free-range, pasture surroundings, you can introduce silage to their diet. Dry silage is easier on their rumens than wet silage is due to bloat fermentation can cause. Choose silage that is rich in clover and alfalfa as well as corn and grass. If you live in a colder climate, you may benefit from adding oats and barley to your silage mix, which can help add needed bulk to your fragile calves in a healthier amount of time.
Feeding calves that have been freshly weaned is a delicate procedure that takes time and dedication. If your calves are overall healthy and gaining weight properly, you can start them out on fibrous hay and healthy grains with ease. If you find that your calves are not gaining weight as they should, you may need to readjust your feeding amounts or make small changes to their diet. Talk to your agricultural veterinarian if you are having any troubles weaning your calves to pasture so you can have a more successful survival rate.