A study by Kansas State University researchers indicated that calves shipped just after separation from their dams grew and stayed as healthy as calves that were kept on the ranch for varying amounts of time up to 60 days.
In the study, summer-weaned beef calves (Angus crosses, weighing 400 pounds) were separated by age, said K-State Research and Extension animal nutritionist K.C. Olson. They were assigned to one of five weaning periods that corresponded to the length of time (60, 45, 30, 15 and 0 days) between separation from dams and shipment to an auction market.
Olson and graduate student Justin Bolte conducted the study.
All calves were fed the same diet-free choice throughout the trial and were monitored twice daily for symptoms of respiratory disease. They were vaccinated against common diseases 14 days before separation from dams and again on the day of separation.
On a common shipping date (day 0, Aug. 24, 2007), the calves were transported three hours to a commercial auction market, where they were held for 14 hours. Then they were moved to a feedlot an hour away.
The body condition of the dams was assessed 60 days before and 60 days after the shipping.