Management hint: Don’t be afraid to turn the calves out

With milder conditions in store for this week, farmers should consider turning out some older calves to grass.

Early turnout to grass has proved hugely beneficial in terms of increased live-weight gain and reduced health issues, when compared to calves housed indoors for long periods of time.

However, if calves are being turned out to grass, they should have access to some shelter and a dry-lying area, as more wet weather is forecasted for the weekend.

To do this, some farmers use hutches or make shelters using recycled timber pallets. In some cases, they have access to the calf shed from a paddock, so that they can return to the shed in poor-weather conditions.

Calf access to a nearby paddock

If a hutch or a DIY shelter is being used, it is important to move it daily to avoid poaching.

In addition, older cattle should follow the calves in a leader-follower system of grazing; the calves have access to the highest-quality grass and they are not exposed to intestinal diseases.

If these young animals become ill or fail to thrive whilst outdoors, then they should be returned indoors and assessed and treated if necessary.

It is important that they continue being fed whole milk or milk replacer whilst outdoors, as they should not be weaned until they are continuously eating 1kg of concentrates.

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