Because they had no genuine Cotran weaners immediately on hand, Jeffers Livestock kindly sent me some QuietWean calf weaners to try. Jeffers is considering stocking the brand, and said they would be happy to hear my opinion.
The results are in. So far, so good!
The main hassle of all weaning rings is the handling required to put them in and out. Getting halters on 300-pound calves that are not hand-tame is not a job for the faint of heart. However all my calves are accustomed to coming into their stalls at night, and in the confines of the small space it can be done with a reasonably limited amount of panic (on their part) and trampling (of me). Once the calves are haltered and tied, the job is quick and painless.
Still, you can see that if your weaners are prone to falling out, or otherwise fail and require replacing, you will quickly develop a deep rage and hatred for that particular brand as you grapple repeatedly with big, anxious, jostling calves. The Jeffers knock-offs did that for me.
The first thing you notice about the QuietWean weaner is that it is light and very smooth. Unlike the Cotran weaner, handling the QuietWean is not like grasping a pricker-bush. Moreover there is no tightening bolt to lose or parts to break. This is a very, very simple design. If it works, that seems a plus.
I removed the trash weaners and put one QuietWean in the nose of my steer calf, Stewart, and one in the nose of my heifer calf, Dorrie.
Hooray! Neither calf could nurse. Stewart stood by his mother looking sheepish. Foiled!
Watching the two calves eat their breakfast hay, it seemed to me that the QuietWean might be slightly easier for calves to live with, as there are no spikes to catch on anything inadvertently.
One the other hand, the same lack of spikes made me wonder how useful the QuietWean would be with a really hungry, determined, persevering, clever calf.
On their website the folks at QuietWean state that in their own trials, fewer than 10% of calves learn to nurse with the QuietWean on — and then (quite honestly) go on to admit that other trials show a 5-30% rate of calves still able to nurse. I greatly admire their frankness. Especially as, from casual reports I’ve had from friends, roughly the same statistics seem to hold true using almost any weaning device … except:
- The knock-off weaners currently sold by Jeffers, which in my small “trial” had a 100% failure rate.
- The weaning halter designed by the same woman who originally designed cow fly masks. This weaning halter has a 100% success rate. However, it is not available commercially and if it were, would be at least three times the price and thus not feasible for large producers.
The answer with weaning rings seems to be that if you find something that works, don’t mess with success.
It did not occur to me for one minute to trade out the Cotran weaner in clever Henry’s nose.
In the future I will keep both Cotran and QuietWean weaning rings on hand. The knock-offs, meanwhile, have gone straight to the trash.