Preparation key for successful turnout

Deciding when to turn cows out to grass will depend on individual circumstances, but most will want to do so early on to maximise milk from forage and reduce feed costs. ForFarmers’ Bruce Forshaw and Ben Trott share their advice for a successful turnout.

Dairy Nutrition
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Before cows go back out to grass there are some important things to consider, highlights Bruce Forshaw, Product Manager. He says: “Every year will be different but wet weather, growth stages and management of your grazing platform all need planning.”

Generally, the earlier cattle are out the better, as this is when spring grass is at its highest quality. However, this will be delayed if experiencing a period of wet weather as ground will be at risk of being poached.

Dealing with wet weather

Bruce explains: “Wet weather can cause a variety of physical, biological and chemical changes within the soil – all of which can affect soil structure. Although many of these changes will start to reverse once the soil begins to dry out, it is important to assess soil structure on any fields before grazing or travelling with machinery.

”As more extremes in weather occur, with increasingly frequent wet spells, assessing the sward and soil will be critical in getting grazing and silage leys back into maximum production, he explains.“

When the ground has dried up, walking the ley to assess the levels of sown species remaining will be required especially for those leys which were under water for a period of time or where there has been run off.”


Water is an essential component of milk with on average five litres of water are required for every litre of milk a cow produces.

Bruce says: “Providing enough water is an essential nutritional requirement, and cows shouldn’t have to walk more than 200 metres to access a supply.

“Fields must be walked to make sure cow tracks, gates, fences are in good condition.”

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Grass and grazing

As organic herds are generally grazing based, getting the most from available grass is paramount, says UK Organic and Grazing Commercial Manager Ben Trott.

“To realistically assess the volume of milk you can produce from grazing, it is important to understand the quality of your grassland and the potential of your management system to utilise forage,” says Ben.

“Grass should be grazed at the three-leaf stage. If leys are grazed to early, it will reduce the grass’ regrowth and if too late, it will be high in fibre and will contain less energy.

“A higher dry matter intake can be achieved by utilising multispecies swards incorporating species such as clover and herbs and more can be achieved from leys in this way.”

Complement good grazing practices with the correct organic grazing compound feed, Cedar Graze Enhance, which also includes organic RumiBest, a rumen enhancer which will help get more milk from forage.

Measuring to manage

Ben continues: “To get the most from grass, it is important to manage it correctly throughout the season and identify areas of excess or limited growth.”

Cows should be turned out into 3,000kg dm/ha and moved out of the paddock when dry matter reduces to 1,500-1,800kg/ha. Do not let cattle graze to a stage where grass is too short to avoid stunted re-growth.

He says: “Regularly assessing grass cover is important as it helps to identify when to graze, when to remove cows and when best to cut fields for silage. Grass growth can be monitored accurately using a plate meter, sward stick or cutting and weighing.

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Spring grass is very different to the silage used through the winter period and tends to have lower dry matter, high energy and high degradable protein content, as well as low levels of fibre. Knowing the nutrients that your cows are getting from grass will help you better balance their dietary needs.

As the grazing season goes on, you can take a field out of rotation to ensure a paddock is at right stage of growth every time cows go in. Grass quality will also reduce with the season and you should not expect too much from the autumn grass.

Target feeding

Ben says: “In the climate of challenging milk prices, maximising the use of grass can provide a welcome reduction in feed costs.

“However, this short term gain should not be achieved at the expense of long term herd health and fertility. Ensure higher risk cows are provided with adequate concentrate supplementation to meet their energy requirements and that low risk cows are maximising use of forage.”

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