Some tips for a successful turnout
9 june 2021
Every spring, you prepare to turn your herd out to pasture. Seems easy enough? At Nutriprof, we understand that it's not simply a matter of opening the gate and letting your cattle roam free. A successful turnout needs to be properly managed. This rapid change in diet and environment can be a stressful experience for your animals. Unfortunately, the consequences can be disastrous without the right support.
To ensure you are properly supported at this key time, we've put together a non-exhaustive list of best practices to ensure a successful turnout.
- Plan for a gradual transition
It's important to ensure a gradual transition over the course of around 3 weeks. Start by taking the cattle out for 3-4 hours each afternoon after a full feed into permanent, mature or grass pastures. This will allow sufficient time for the micro-organisms in the rumen to acclimatise to the new diet. In the first few days, you should continue to supply some winter rations in order to avoid digestive problems. Young spring grass is rich in crude protein and soluble sugars, but it's often lacking in fibre; you might want to consider providing low-protein grass silage or corn silage. It can also be useful to mix a little straw into the feed to encourage rumination. This will prevent your cows from ingesting vast amounts of the young grass too quickly, allowing them to graze and better digest their food.
If the grass appears already to be in plentiful supply, only allow access to part of the pasture, or limit grazing time. This will help prevent them from overeating. It's important not to allow them to ingest the maximum amount of grass until they have been grazing for 3 weeks.
- Check your animals' health
It's important to check your animals' health before turning them out to graze. The change in diet once they're turned out to pasture can cause them to lose weight. We recommend keeping a close eye on fresh dairy cows and heifers in particular.
- Use fibre to slow down their digestion
It's also vital to slow down your cows' digestive systems. To do this, given that young spring grass contains virtually no fibre, we recommend encouraging efficient fibre consumption by providing hay or straw. Introducing fibre into the feed will regulate grass acidity, and sodium bicarbonate and salt can be used to good effect here. Clay will also help slow down digestion and derive the maximum benefit from grass.
Lack of fibre can quickly cause a drop in pH levels in the stomach, resulting in excess acids (acidosis). The consequences can be disastrous for your animals:
- a drop in the fat content of milk
- poor appetite
- highly changeable manure consistency
- hoof problems
- liver abscesses
- stomach disorders and diseases.
To check that your ruminants' acid/alkaline levels are in balance, we recommend monitoring the fat content of their milk as they adjust to their new diet (over the three-week transition period discussed under point 1 above). A drop in fat levels is often one of the early signs of acidosis. To neutralise rumen acidity and increase PH, you can supplement your cows' feed with our Math’s Buf Balance. Learn more about Math's Buf Balance
- Administer anti-parasite feed additives
There are many types of internal parasites. The main ones are lungworms and tapeworms as well as trematodes: small liver fluke, large liver fluke and rumen fluke. There's no need to discuss here the dire financial repercussions for farmers. That's why, when it's time to turn out your cattle, it's important to administer feed supplements, such as our licking bucket, Math's Vara Bloc in order to prevent the spread of parasites and protect the health and immunity of your herd.
- Administer mineral-rich feed additives
When it comes to turnout time, grass can often be damp and have a laxative effect. What's more, young grass is often lacking in important minerals such as magnesium and sodium. The result is that when you turn your animals out to pasture, their digestive system speeds up, upsetting their digestion. This causes poor magnesium absorption, which can in turn lead to grass tetany. To prevent this extreme situation, we recommend that you add magnesium into your ruminants' diet in advance of (one month before) and during the transition period. Magnesium can be administered in various forms: liquids, powders (magnesium oxide), boluses, lick pads and buckets. Nutriprof can supply lick buckets and/or mineral mixes to suit the needs of all your ruminants.
Find out more about our range of lick buckets
View our mineral mixes
Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like more information.
You should also consider providing your animals with a salt block. Lack of salt is known to be a leading cause of grass tetany.
- Check your cows' hooves
It's important to check your cows' hooves when you first turn them out to pasture. Having spent all winter inside, their hooves will be softer, and the stony pastures can cause them discomfort and result in injury (abscesses) and lameness. Check your ruminants' hooves and trim them before turnout if you find that they're not in good shape. Grazing requires your herd to move about a lot. Be sure to keep pathways well-maintained: check for very stony ground, the incline, avoid potholes and ruts. This will make for more comfortable movement around the fields for both your animals and yourself.
- Check water sources and soil PH
Water sources should be checked to ensure that the herd can access clean water in sufficient quantities. We also recommend that you regularly perform soil analysis to check pH levels and ensure a good grass yield.
- Limit parasites
It's advisable to avoid overgrazing and close grazing because most larvae are found in the top 5 cm of soil.
- Watch out for ticks
These mite parasites attach onto your animals' skin (primarily in hot regions) and feed on their blood. This can cause irritation and mild or severe anaemia, especially in lambs and calves.
Further risks come from the fact that ticks can carry numerous diseases (piroplasmosis, anaplasmosis, etc.). They are mainly found in April and May, but they can strike from March in warm, humid weather. To protect your herd from these pests, you're advised to take preventive action as soon as you turn your animals out. You can do this by applying anti-parasite veterinary treatments, repellents, or by providing garlic-rich mineral feed (renowned for its insect-repellent properties). To protect your ruminants from these insects, our Math's Fluga Bloc and our Math's Vara Bloc could be the perfect solution.Go back to overview