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DIY Weaning Halter for Calves

Rather than use painful methods or fully separating calves from moms, I made a simply and painless DIY weaning halter for our calves and yearlings.

When can you wean calves?

Technically a calf can be weaned from their mom after they have had sufficient colostrum, about twenty-four hours. That is only if you are planning on supplementing with milk or milk replacer.

Calves are old enough to be weaned from mom at around six months. Some farmers will wean even sooner at around three months if they are supplementing sufficiently with other feed.

We prefer to leave calves with their mother and wean much later. This means less milk production for us but we value having babies with their mamas for a longer period.

jersey calf rough and tumble farmhouse

Calf Sharing and Weaning

On our farm we calf share. It is in our best interest to keep babies with their moms as long as possible. This gives us flexibility for traveling away from the homestead or just not milking for whatever reason.

Unless we sell them, calves grow up right alongside their moms and are never separated. This is simply because we only have five acres and it isn’t possible to separate them.

Because of this, we had to come up with a way to wean calves without ever separating them from their moms.

How long should a cow be dry before coming into milk again?

Three months is the standard time you want a cow dry before she comes into milk again. This is so her body can focus its energy on the developing calf which gains much of its weight and goes through a lot of growth during what is basically the last trimester for the cow.

I’ve seen some industry folks say as little as two months, but really three is better for mama and baby.

jersey cows
Can you even tell who is the mama? Butterscotch has gotten so big!

How to Wean Calves without Separating them from the Cow

It isn’t completely unheard of to wean calves while still with their mom. One of the main tools people use is this little clip that goes on their nose. It has little spikey things on it so when the calf goes to nurse it pokes the mom who will then move away from the calf or gently kick them away. Eventually the calf gives up and weaning happens.

calf weaner
Normally this gets clipped on the calf’s nose like a clip on nose ring.

Gentle Method for Weaning Calves

I couldn’t bring myself to put that clip on our calf’s nose. I’m sure they would have been numb to it eventually but it just didn’t sit well with me.

Instead I rigged up a weaning halter.

Very simply I bought a Weaver size small horse halter (says good for 500-800 lbs). I chose a horse halter because the nose band was lower than on a cow halter. The cow halter sat up too high so the calf could still nurse without the device poking mom. Cow halters also are made differently so I don’t think most would be safe to wear unattended in the pasture.

Next, I bought one of those nose clip paddles. They run about $5 at our local fleet supply store.

The last thing you’ll need are two thick, flat-top bolts and nuts to go with them. I think mine are about 1 1/4- 1 1/2 inch long. Not sure on the thickness but check out the photos and video to get the idea.

I used a power drill to dill a hole through the nose band of the halter. Then I pushed the screws through and lined them up on the nose plate/agitator, then I drilled holes through that too.

I stuck the nose plate on the screws and tightened down the nuts.

Voila! A pain-free weaning halter for calves or older heifers

diy weaning halter rough and tumble farmhouse

How long do they need to wear the halter?

I keep the halter on our heifers for about a month. That seems to be plenty long for mom to dry down and for the calf to lose interest.

If they try to suckle again after removing the halter just put it back on right away.

Keeping up with the Cow’s Milk Supply

When we wean it is always after a month or two of us not milking and the calves are always close to a year old. The calf at this point is usually not nursing much and we also stop milking around January. Because of this the cow’s supply has naturally been reduced quite a bit. This allows mom to dry down without any complications.

However if you are actively milking the cow and the calf is younger, you need to make sure you are keeping up with the milk the calf would have been drinking. Then if you plan to dry the cow down entirely you can adjust your milking routine to slowly reduce her supply.

If you just stop milking a heavily producing cow without giving her a chance to reduce her supply then you are putting her at risk for mastitis.

Watch and Learn

Things went slightly awry when I went to put the weaning halter for calves on our heifer (our sweet girl is too chunky!) but you can get a good look at the halter in the video below.

Pin it for Later

diy weaning halter pinterest graphic rough and tumble farmhouse

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