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5 top tips for turning beef cattle out


Getting your beef cattle turned out to grass early can help cut feed costs and improve grass growth.

Afbeelding: Ben Druitt - Specialist feature thumbnail

When a comprehensive grazing plan is put in place, farmers may be able to turn out their cattle earlier than previous years and could save up to £1 a head per day on indoor housing costs. Of course the British weather and your farm’s geographical location are important factors that can influence timelines and your farm’s grass growth.  

We spoke to Ben Druitt our Beef Specialist in the South West of England for some top turnout tips for you to consider this season:

1

Monitor and plan your grass availability

“Grass is one of the most important resources and maximising it’s use can offer a huge opportunity to increase margins. With production costs rising, focusing on growing and utilising more, high quality grazed grass will reduce the requirements on purchased feed which in turn, will improve profit.”

“It’s important to start monitoring your fields from late winter right through the summer so that informed decisions can be made. If you are looking to get cattle out soon, perhaps examine your south-facing fields which weren’t grazed in the autumn as these might be more suitable for early turnout.”

Ben went on to say “growing cattle should be allocated at least 3% of their bodyweight in dry matter per day. For example a 400kg animal needs about 12kg DM/day and in March grass may grow between 5-15kg DM/ha/day, this helps calculate the stocking rate.”

“By thinking ahead and closely monitoring grass availability throughout the season, farmers can create contingency plans for over or under production to help ensure forage is not wasted and that cattle get the required nutrients and forage supply for sustained growth.

2

Measure sward heights

Afbeelding: Sward Stick

Knowing when to graze grass and for how long needs careful assessment. A sward stick can be a great tool to assess pasture cover measured in kilograms of dry matter a hectare. It works like a plate meter and measures the density of the sward.

Our Forage Specialist Mel Digger recommends:

  1. To use the sward stick weekly to build up a log of the grass growing information.
  2. Monitor the sward height following a similar route each time.
  3. Take a minimum of 30 readings per field.
  4. Record your data and calculate an average.


Currently we are offering farmers a free sward stick, to register for one please click here

“The ideal pre-graze sward height for beef cattle early in the season is between 8-12cm, with 5-6cm being the best post-grazing sward height. These are targets for rotational grazing.” Ben said “by measuring your swards can help plan when and how many animals to turn out.”

3

Avoid damage

“Early turnout brings many benefits however a crucial aspect is to prevent damage to the sward through poaching. I recommend that my customers match the cattle in terms of weight/size and stocking density to the soil conditions of your fields. This is extremely important and helps to minimise damage. My motto is the heavier the soil, the lighter the stock.”

“Also by turning cattle out in small batches can help to calm the herd’s behaviour and also prevents the ground from becoming poached.”

Afbeelding: Beef cattle grazing - 720
4

Consider rotational grazing

“Rotational grazing ensures that the grass continues to grow and recover as quickly as possible and helps you achieve the best nutritional quality. The speed of the rotation will depend on grass growth and the wedge that has been built.”

“By regularly measuring grass covers in each field a wedge can be created. This will highlight areas which need grazing sooner to utilise their full quality, or potential feed deficits where a grazing rotation needs to be slowed and potentially a buffer feed to fill the gap.” 

“It's important to note that as your cattle grow their demand on fresh grass will increase. It therefore may mean that you need to move your animals through the end of the rotation quicker. It’s all about supply and demand and if you think your leys need overseeding here is a great article to aid you.”

5

Make sure your system and cattle are ready

“Before you turnout your cattle it’s important to check that your fields are stock proof and water troughs are in good working condition.”

“Cattle should be healthy and vaccinated in order to protect them against diseases. In addition plan your worm and fly control programme for the season to ensure effectiveness and efficiency.

“Something else to consider are mineral and salt supplementation buckets, these can help provide essential nutrients and prevent issues such as magnesium grass staggers.”
 

Beef cattle licking bucket

Conclusion

“Spring turn out is a busy time for all cattle producers and by spending some time spent planning now can pay real dividends as the season progresses. Hopefully these top tips ensure your animals perform and maximise your valuable home grown grass.”

If you would like to contact Ben for advice or information on our wide range of beef products you can call him on 07768 397 886, alternatively send us an online enquiry:

 

Contact a Beef Specialist