Top 5 Checklist for Pasture Turnout

Before Turning Cattle Out on Grass, Consider These Management Decisions

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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One grazing management decision that should be made before pasture turnout involves minerals. Cattle should be fed a high magnesium mineral to prevent grass tetany, a mineral imbalance. (DTN photo by Becky Mills)

OMAHA (DTN) -- After a winter of feeding hay to cows, there is nothing like turning them out to green grass. After many months of feeding cattle, they can now feed themselves.

However, before cows are turned out, there are a few management decisions that need to be made. Having a simple checklist to follow is an easy way to make sure you are prepared.

Sydney Vanderhoff, South Dakota State University beef nutrition field specialist, recently wrote an article titled "Checklist to Pasture Turnout" (…). Here are her top five items to do before a pasture turnout:


One issue with turning cattle out into lush green grass is grass tetany. The mineral imbalance in a cow presents itself as neurological symptoms, such as a staggering gait, tremors, muscle twitching in the flank and hyper behavior.

High potassium content and crude protein in rapidly growing pastures lower magnesium in the bloodstream. In addition, lactation pulls magnesium and calcium from body storage, further reducing magnesium circulation.

Supplying a mineral supplement that contains increased levels of magnesium two to three weeks before turnout and continuing for several weeks into the early part of the grazing season should limit the incidence.

A high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement should be provided to ensure cattle receive all necessary micronutrients. Pasture grass will provide most of an animal's needs, but a mineral supplement should also be fed.


An important part of pasture management is maintaining fence and ensuring it is in good condition. Be sure to walk the pasture and check fences to ensure they are in good shape before cattle turnout.

Fences should also be continually checked throughout the grazing season as holes in fences develop over time. Another thing to check is electric fences as the fencer box could stop working.


The proper timing of pasture turnout is critical for optimal forage production. DTN recently wrote about this subject:….

Monitor the grazing readiness of the predominate grass species and be aware you may have to delay your grazing start date. One way to do this is to look at the growing degree days.


Make sure cattle have access to adequate drinking water. Cattle cool themselves by standing in shallow water or sweating.

With increasing temperatures during the summer grazing season, water becomes imperative for cattle welfare and performance. Check water levels and access to ponds and troughs before turning cattle out and continue to regularly check throughout the grazing season.

Water quality is a concern year-round but even more so during the summer months. Water troughs may need to be cleaned routinely to prevent algae growth and remove manure.

Keep an eye out for blue-green algae. It is toxic to cattle and can kill an animal in as little as 24 hours. Cattle are sensitive to the palatability of a water source. Manure contamination can limit water intake and result in dehydration and a reduction in performance.


There are many fly prevention options to consider, including ear tags and pour-on products. Some mineral products even contain fly prevention ingredients.

Dewormer and vaccines should be administered at this time as well. Your local veterinarian can develop a vaccination and treatment plan for your herd.

Producers should plan on how they will treat cattle while grazing on grass if necessary. This could be darting cattle, setting up panels or having permanent facilities.

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Russ Quinn