As March gets under way, there will be farmers on drier land looking to filter cattle out to grass over the coming weeks, as weather permits.

When grazing in March, ground conditions can be soft and keeping grass in front of animals take careful management.

Outlined are some tips to turning cattle out to grass.

1. Start off with small numbers

A common mistake with spring grazing is turning too many cattle out too soon. Don’t get carried away.

Weather can quickly change and regrowth on grazed areas will be low, making it possible to run out of grass if too many cattle are turned out.

Start off small, turning one or two pens of weanlings or light stores outside. Light cattle will do less ground damage and grass supplies will last longer.

When you are confident ground and grass supplies can carry more stock, then gradually increase numbers. A gradual turnout is easier to address if cattle have to be rehoused.

2. Check ear tags, vaccines, castrating and dehorning before turnout

Before turning cattle out, tidy up any missed horns on weanlings or male animals that were missed when castrating. Booster vaccines for clostridial diseases should be given, where applicable.

A couple of days before turning cattle out, check animals have both ear tags. If not, order a replacement and tag animals as they leave the shed.

3. Target late morning for turnout

Aim to turn cattle out in late morning, rather than afternoon. That gives animals longer to acclimatise to air temperatures outside.

In March, there is a risk of overnight frost. If cattle are turned out in late evening, air temperatures will be falling and the sudden change from the shed to outdoor can trigger pneumonia.

4. Restrict silage intake before turnout

Cattle that go out to grass hungry are more likely to settle and start grazing. Therefore, if cattle are going out to grass in the morning, restrict access to silage overnight.

However, avoid doing this if turning cattle out to paddocks with a relatively good clover content, as there is a higher risk of bloat.

Target fields with lower clover content for grazing first. Work around your rotation to include clover swards, allowing animals to acclimatise better.

5. Allow cattle to settle before erecting temporary electric wires

Once cattle go out to grass, it can take a while for animals to settle. Therefore, hold off on erecting temporary electric fences until cattle have settled.

If temporary fences have been set up in advance of turnout, there is a very strong chance cattle will break through wires as soon as they hit grass.

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