Given the weather conditions we have encountered this spring, it can be hard to contemplate letting cattle out of their comfortable shed to grass, writes Donal McCabe, Teagasc Drystock Advisor, Longford Town.
Grass in the spring is a highly nutritious feed. The liveweight gain of growing cattle or the milking ability of cows when fed on grass in the spring will be nearly always far superior to that achieved off silage, despite silage costing a lot more than grazed grass.
Another benefit of grazing earlier is that grazing stimulates the grass plant to grow again after the winter, allowing you to grow more grass than if it was left un-grazed until later in the year. Aim to get some cattle out at least two weeks earlier than you did last year.
If your farm has heavy, wet soils, lighter cattle such as yearlings should be targeted first. This will minimise the risk of poaching. Having a number of different grazing divisions allows flexibility.
Cattle can be grazed on drier ground with good shelter if the weather conditions are poor and you can subsequently move them to the wetter ground when ground conditions improve. It is also advised to let cattle out on a lighter cover of grass at first for a few days so that they don’t end up tramping stronger grass into the ground with all the running around.
Remember, every day spent at grass in the spring will reap big benefits in terms of animal performance. Put a plan in place now, to assist you in getting your cattle out earlier.