‘Failing to prepare, we prepare to fail’ No where is this more relevant than when it comes to preparing pasture and cattle for spring turnout.
With the imminent arrival of spring it is important to review your management program to maximise the feed value of grass. Livestock producers eagerly await spring pasture ‘green up’ however it takes several weeks after the initial pasture ‘green up’ before fresh forage contains adequate concentrations of essential nutrients to meet animal requirements. Grass should be 6”to 8” tall, have three leaves and should with stand the pull-out test. If the grass is not over abundant the cattle can gradually begin to adapt from the winter fodder ration over to pasture. Turning cattle out in batches according to size not only helps to calm the overall herd behaviour, it also prevents the ground from becoming poached. Cattle should be big enough to turn out – at least 300 kgs but also need to be lean enough to be able to take advantage of the spring grass.
Before you can begin to think about turn out the fields must be stock proof and water troughs checked. Cattle need to be in ‘good order’ with a considered health care plan in place including an appropriate vaccination strategy to guard against diseases such as leptospirosis and blackleg. Plan the whole season’s worm control before turn out to prevent losses and to ensure that cost is cut to a minimum. Consider the age of the stock, the availability and grazing history of the pasture and finally the type of treatment program.
Plan a fly control program and de horn and castrate. It is well worth ensuring all cattle are clearly tagged prior to turn out for ease of identification when on pasture. Consider mineral and salt supplementation needs and make sure you have supplies in hand.
Finally, thinking ahead, monitor pasture production throughout the season and have contingency plans for over and under production to ensure pasture is not wasted and cattle have their required supply throughout the season – the longer the cattle forage for themselves there is less need for expensive stored feed.
Spring turn out is a busy time for all cattle producers and some time spent planning now could pay dividends as the season progresses.