The post-weaning growth check refers to a period of slow growth usually lasting about two weeks as the calf transitions from milk to solid rations. It is common but also preventable.
Post-weaning growth check is usually attributable to one or more of the following factors:
- Not enough dry feed in the early weeks – If the calf lacks sufficient dry feed in the weeks up to weaning the rumen will not have developed sufficiently. The calf will not be able to grow rapidly if the rumen is not accustomed to processing significant amounts of dry feed.
- Too much roughage – Of course the goal is to move the calf off the cow and onto pasture but if too much hay and grass is fed a growth check can occur. This is because calves with their small, developing rumens are unable to process enough of this type of bulky feed to result in significant weight gain.
- Stress – Calves dislike change and can become stressed when presented with a feed to which they are not accustomed. Using same-flavoured feeds can help prevent a growth check. Use a concentrated feed throughout the weaning process and afterward, until the calf is on pasture.
Keep in mind that if the calf does experience a growth check, the time that is lost cannot be recovered. The calf will take longer to reach its target weight.