Dry weather is forecast for the week ahead and on some farms with lighter, free-draining soils, there will be opportunities to slip cattle out to grass.

However, ground conditions will be tricky to manage for a week or two yet, so take steps to prevent sward damage.

Outlined are five tips to get grazing up and running after a difficult spring.

1. Targeting priority cattle for turnout

If possible, prioritise certain cattle for turnout if ground conditions allow. In terms of cows and calves, give priority to first-calved heifers and older, thinner cows under pressure indoors.

Mature cows in fit condition with strong calves can go out once you are confident ground is able to carry more animals.

If breeding starts in early May, target February-calving cows for priority at turn-out. This gives time for cows to adjust to the change in diet before breeding starts.

Cows calving in April are unlikely to come into heat for another month, so they are lower priority for turnout in the week ahead.

In terms of stores and weanlings, cattle that will finish off grass in autumn should get priority over animals that will go back in the shed for finishing next spring.

2. Fertiliser

Grass growth is on the rise and where paddocks are carrying medium (ankle high) to strong covers, grazing is recommended before applying fertiliser.

Aim for 25 to 30 units/acre of nitrogen after this rotation to drive regrowth and build covers for May. Using a fertiliser with sulphur will also benefit grass growth.

Avoid using a high potash (K) fertiliser on paddocks where cows are grazing, as this increases the risk of grass tetany. That means avoid using slurry on grazing ground, even if tanks are filled to capacity.

3. Grazing covers tight

Aim to get paddocks grazed as tight to the ground as possible in this rotation, although this will be dictated by ground conditions.

There will be a lot of dead matter accumulated at the base of swards that have yet to be grazed this spring. This needs cleaning off to maintain sward quality in the weeks ahead.

4. Skipping paddocks

Do not be afraid to skip paddocks if ground is still on the soft side. There is no point poaching swards just because paddocks are laid out side by side and it is the normal direction for rotating cattle.

Hopefully, the dry weather will run into the following week, allowing soft ground to harden and make grazing possible on heavier soils without poaching.

5. Moving cattle and grass utilisation

Make good use of electric fencing to manage swards and improve grass utilisation. That means being flexible with paddock sizes and moving cattle in 12-, 24- or 48-hour allocations if necessary.

Moving cattle to fresh grass on time will stop animals becoming unsettled, thereby reducing the amount of poaching.

If possible, try to keep temporary paddocks as square as possible, as this can reduce the amount of walking along wire fences by cattle.

Strip grazing is a good option in paddocks with strong grass covers and free-draining soils. However, it is crucial the strip wire is moved on time, either twice daily or every day.

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