Sucklers going to grass in spring

How quickly conditions can change at this time of year. A lot of freshly calved Suckler cows will be turned out to grass in the next few weeks.

We left out the youngest calves at home on Tuesday afternoon.

We hope to put out the autumn born ones early next week. There is plenty of grass on most farms and it is just a matter of when the conditions will allow cattle to be turned out full time.

The last week has seen ground dry up considerably, however many are finding that the surface is still cutting up easily. 

Immediately post calving is a critical time in the Sucklers production cycle, as increasing grass intake quickly for both cow and calf will improve performance.

At turn out the most important thing to monitor is grass intake and Rumen fill. Poor intakes of grass should be supplemented with forages or concentrates. 

Now that you have calved the cow your attention must now shift to getting her back in calf again.

Body Condition

Most Sucklers cows will lose some body condition after calving but this needs to be controlled to produce enough quality milk for her calf while going back in calf quickly. 

Grass quality and supply will determine if you need to supplement cows with additional forage or concentrates. 

If you need to supplement suckler cows on grass then it may be easier to keep them in until there is sufficient grass before turning them out.

Dry Sucklers

As there is plenty of grass around, many will consider turning out dry cows before calving. 

This is risky as it is difficult to control cow condition at grass. It is also a risk with regard to milk fever and held cleanings in older cows due to high Potassium swards.

Tetany Risk

Suckler cows going down with Tetany is all too common every spring. This is as we all know a result of a Magnesium deficiency. 

Grass is inherently deficient in Magnesium and it is worth noting that cows are generally deficient in Magnesium well before they drop with Tetany. 

A Magnesium deficiency may result in poor saliva production and subsequently in poorer digestion of feed and lower production levels. Magnesium is a major macro mineral essential for performance in cattle.


There are many ways that farmers try to get sufficient Magnesium into their cows. Some more effective than others:

  • High magnesium lick buckets

This is the most common method of Magnesium feeding to cows in Ireland and works very well once buckets are always accessible. Some will use a High Mag feed block to supplement grass and prevent Tetany.

  • Magnesium in water troughs

A popular method- In wet weather, where cows drink less from troughs it may not be as effective.

  • Meal feeding

Some may feed a dairy meal to Sucklers during times of Tetany risk particularly if grass is in short supply.

  • Dusting of paddocks with magnesium

Be sure of your facts before you depend on any single method of Tetany protection.

Whichever method you choose be sure to stick rigidly to it.

The cost of Tetany prevention is insignificant compared to losing cows.


Frits Potgieter is General Manager with Muckross Park Hotel and Spa.You've Been Served: Frits Potgieter, Muckross Park Hotel and Spa

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