A lot of dairy-beef calves are heading out to grass at the moment as they either come off milk or prepare to be weaned in the coming weeks.

Cold northerly winds and heavy showers over the past few days may have delayed turnout in some cases. However, with milder conditions forecast from the weekend onwards, turnout can commence again.

Target paddocks close to the yard that have decent shelter. Ideally calves should be turned out by day and housed at night for a few days until they become accustomed with their new outdoor surroundings.

Careful steps

While this may not be an option on all farms, turnout for the first time should take place on a dry day.

Calves should be either weaned a few days prior to turnout, or not weaned until a week to 10 days post-turnout. This is to avoid too many changes to the calf at any one time.

Weaning at turnout can lead to calves bawling in the corner of a paddock looking for milk. If this is to happen during a poor period of weather this can lead to pneumonia outbreaks as the calf becomes stressed.

Water and roughage

Make sure calves have constant access to fresh clean water in troughs that they can reach in the field.

It is also important to continue to feed a roughage source such as straw for the first while at grass. Calves are used to eating this from indoors while grass is completely new to them. They will come in on eating grass in the first few days, but this is often very lush and leafy meaning there is little or no fibre in the diet.

Continue to feed meal at grass – at least 1kg/day. Where calves were eating more indoors, this should be continued for the first two weeks at pasture. At this point, it can be reduced to 1kg/day.