Document Type


Publication Date



weaned calves, feeding programs, calf

Extension Number

ExEx 2009


Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering


Fall is a stressful time for calves. They are generally weaned at this time. Following weaning, they are often transported or moved to a sale barn or unfamiliar facility. Upon arrival, they may be mixed with other cattle, subjected to processing and forced to eat unfamiliar feeds. In addition, all of these stresses may be compounded by foul weather. To combat the negative impacts of stress cattlemen should strive to get new calves on feed as rapidly as possible. Proper nutrition and a consistent health program are essential when starting calves on feed. Proper nutrition is important from two standpoints. First, the success of any health program is highly dependant on the nutritionals status of the calf. In order for the immune system of the calf to form antibodies in response to vaccination programs, sufficient protein, energy vitamins and minerals must be available. The second reason is more obvious. The calf simply needs to consume feed in order to grow and thrive. Ownership and facility costs are generally high. Feeder cattle need to gain weight in order to make money for cattlemen. Newly arrived or recently weaned calves do not readily eat upon arrival in a feedlot. Texas data (Hutcheson, 1980) suggests that a surprisingly high percentage of cattle do not eat during the first few days in the feedlot. Table 1 shows that on day one in the feedlot, only 21.7% of the cattle eat. On day three, over 40% of the cattle will not eat. On seven, 30% of the cattle will not eat. And on day 10, an average of 15% of the cattle will not eat. These data suggest that getting cattle started on feed is a major problem. Three problems need to be addressed in order to get cattle started on feed. First, recently weaned or newly arrived cattle will generally not recognize the feed bunk and may not recognize water troughs. Second, new cattle may not recognize the feed that the producer wishes to feed him. Finally, feed intake by new cattle will likely be low due to stress. The remaining section of this paper focus on managing around these problems. Additional sections include discussions of feed additives, commercial receiving, or weaning rations and health programs.


November 1988, F&F 4.1-3.1