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Easing onto grass

April 12, 2010

A week of changes is behind us now.  We moved the cows to pasture last week.  One, we want to quit feeding hay, and two, we want to get the cows transitioned to grass before the grass gets too lush and causes bloat.  We have never really had a problem with bloat, but it is still something to watch for, since it is life threatening to cattle.   It takes about 5 days for the rumen pH to adjust to a feed change.  So gradual is the word.  Feeding hay before turnout is must too, so they don’t fill up on fresh grass from the get-go.  A couple of management factors have helped us dodge a bullet with bloat:  One we don’t feed grain, only long stemmed grass hay and pasture, and the other is that our free choice minerals contain probiotics that help the rumen maintain a healthy balance.  We still watch though, just in case.

Moving the cows to pasture also meant transitioning our socially challenged bottle “calves”, Susy and Ty in with the herd.  Fighting and pecking order establishment is the norm.  So a large paddock and good fencing is a must.  Susy is two, and Ty is one, and they need to learn herd dynamics.  I halter break and tether any bottle calves we have so, it is like riding a bike, they never forget that early training.  We had to catch them, and lead them out the driveway, across the road and deposit them before the herd noticed and came running.  We took Ty first, and he wasn’t too bad, just a little snorting and snot blowing, and then he stood stock still in the road because the pavement felt funny.  We watched his “initiation” and when things settled down we came back for Susy – AKA as the Battle Axe!  Her and Ruthless do not get along,  so I caught her, Ruthless came along with a stick and a grain bucket just in case,  and off we went with starts and stops for a while.  Then she decided to throw herself down a few times in the driveway, and then in the road.  This is when you hope a motorcycle doesn’t show up going 90 mph or a bicyclist.  Usually once you get them in the pasture, instead of hanging back they want to take off, which barely gives you enough time to get the halter off.  Talk about a workout – Pilates in the Pasture!  Pull, push, scold, repeat for 500 feet.  It took about 15 minutes of being chased and pushed around before everyone settled in.  The pregnant cows watched with amusement while the yearlings and two year-olds did all the work.  It’s quiet around the barnyard now, just the horse and Della, and maybe a plaintive bawl from Susy at chore time.

Susy and Ty, the next morning.

Dawn brought a restful herd, with Susy and Ty sleeping at the fringe, but together.  They will be fine unless she takes a powder to come home.  Update:  As I suspected Susy and Ty are shaping up to be nice bellcows.  Both immediately were on my heels as I headed to open the gate to the next paddock.

Della requires a little closer watching, because she is going into lusher grass.  Legumes are a biggie in bloat and it is still early enough that the clover is just starting to appear.  Before turning her out in the morning I make sure she eats 3 or 4 flakes of grass hay.  Her diet now consists of grass hay and pasture – no grain or sugary roots.  Overly wet grass, or frosty grass can also bring on bloat – lots of things to watch for, but all easy to avoid.

She will be pastured by herself, with just the horse nearby for company,until she calves in May.  Her job will be keeping the grass down in the orchard and in the headlands around the gardens.  This paddock is 50′ x 50′ and will last several days.  Some areas I may tether her, it just depends on the location and what needs mowing at the time.

To see if your cow is bloated look at the left side in front the hip shown by the arrow above.  If the cow is bloated, this area will be quite distended and the cow will be very uncomfortable.

And of course the business end, her manure is the perfect pumpkin pie consistency telling me she is getting enough long stemmed forage to balance the new spring grass.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan Womersley permalink
    April 12, 2010 1:00 pm

    I will never quite think of pumpkin pie filling the same way…;o) Your pasture grass looks wonderful! We are still waiting for more growth here in upstate NY (eastern part). Love your photographs.


    • April 12, 2010 1:55 pm

      Susan, LOL wait till I post a picture of butterscotch pudding :O It’s starting to green up, finally!

  2. April 12, 2010 1:35 pm

    Suzy was one pretty calf!

    • April 12, 2010 1:57 pm

      Paula, she was a cutie, and a very vigorous calf – I wondered if her brother and her would differ much in size, since he stayed with mom, and they are exactly the same size now. Although I can’t put a hand on him 🙂

  3. April 12, 2010 1:49 pm

    I appreciate the informative blog! I will be having to put my cow back on the grass soon, and bloat has been a concern for me

  4. April 12, 2010 1:58 pm

    Petey, as long as you don’t have alfalfa or clover to graze, she should be fine. Fingers crossed.

  5. April 12, 2010 3:04 pm

    My herd were both halter broke as calves and 4-H projects, but I cannot lead them to save my soul now. Maxine is snooty (I don’t believe the people I bought her from that she was even tame) and only likes me when I have food, and MJ is too big to put a halter on. They are finally out fully on pasture. It took a couple of weeks to wean them from hay to pasture.

    • April 12, 2010 3:25 pm

      Teresa, I hear you on that one, I wouldn’t want to lead them too far – but in a pinch it was easier than driving them or calling them. I use my adjustable rope halter that I can really cinch on their nose and it makes them a little testy but keeps their focus on where their nose is headed 😉 My shoulders are killing me today!

  6. jean permalink
    April 12, 2010 7:38 pm

    As a city girl I love reading about your cows and the rest of the animals. And I am very grateful that I don’t like pumpkin filling. Thanks for sharing the good and the gross.

  7. April 13, 2010 1:20 am

    As “gross” as it may sound, wish i had some of that “filling” right about now – I’m going to be planting my pumpkin plants in the next few weeks!

    Glad to hear the cows are getting back into their transition – good luck with the new calf on the way and I shall keep fingers crossed all goes well! (don’t panic, don’t panic)

  8. April 13, 2010 5:28 am

    …….so different that here!

  9. April 13, 2010 9:33 am

    Oh, my gosh…what a crackup comparing the cow pattie to food! LOL

    This will surely help me with dieting………..

    Will visit again…have a great day.

  10. April 13, 2010 9:36 am

    We’ve penned ours until the grass starts, then we will slowly let them back out.


  11. April 14, 2010 5:05 am

    I just love your blog. So informative! I had to laugh out loud at “pumpkin pie”…..

  12. April 16, 2010 6:46 pm

    That was informative post for this newbie cow owner. Didn’t know to give him grain before putting him out to pasture. We put up the fencing this week and we have been putting him out in the morning and in at night as we dof not have any shelter out there for him yet. He is halter on him but I would not say he is quite trained. He is a little scary, spunky, sh#$ head. I look forward to the days he simmers down or I have to handle hime less. He goes with the lead mostly but that’s not without bucking and causing some rukus. He seems to be fatening (sp?) up a bit. I have been supplying him with a free choice mineral. Never did de-worm him hoping the minerals would do the trick?? Do like having him…..want another already.

    • April 16, 2010 6:52 pm

      Kim, give him hay before grass, not grain. Sounds like he is coming along – he will behave a little better with a friend :O They like company, just like us!

      • April 19, 2010 7:04 am

        Boy I did not proof read that last reply before submitting. Lots of errors, LOL.
        I meant hay not grain.

  13. April 21, 2010 10:23 am

    I finally got Josie and Joy onto the back pasture this afternoon. They’ve been “over grazing” the inside pasture and were glad to get out. It’s a rainy day but they are fillin up. I’m hoping that since they’ve been getting grass for several weeks and had plenty of hay this AM (been off any type of oats and BOSS for several weeks), that they will be ok on the new pasture for a few hrs. I don’t need any bloat! I guess I ought to bring them in with a bribe of BOSS….can’t be too careful I suppose.


  1. Spring Grazing…Ugh. | Chism Heritage Farm

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