A calm spring turnout

Thu, 17/05/2018 - 16:45pm

One of the highlights on any dairy farm is when the cows go out to pasture in the spring.   Over the past few years we’ve invited members of the public along to watch and to share in the cows’ enjoyment and excitement of spring.  This year was no different and we were pleased to welcome around 40 people to our turnout event.  What was a little different was just how incredibly calm it was!

Turnout videos have become a social media phenomenon in dairy farming recently, typically showing the cows excitedly leap and jostle for position as they head out into the fields.  Our autumn calvers whose calves have now weaned did exactly that, running and jumping, full of the joys of spring.  However our public event was for the cows who calved within the last few weeks and as they led their calves out to pasture for the first time it was a much more gentle affair.

Cows and calves go out to play May 2018

This is the second spring we’ve had calves going out with the cows, and it’s the first turnout where our cow with calf approach has been fully in place across the herd and there was a noticeable difference in behaviour this year.   The cows with spring calves were calm and perhaps a bit cautious as they led their calves to the field for the first time.  Rather than running straight for the grass several of them turned back and nudged distracted calves along in the right direction. 

Nudging the calves in the correct direction
Keeping an eye on the young calves
Settling in quickly

These calves are aged between one to eight weeks so still quite young, and there was clear communication between the cows and their calves as they encouraged the calves into this new outdoor experience.  It was fascinating to watch.  In hindsight it makes sense that the maternal instinct to nurture would curtail the excitement of the occasion but we were genuinely surprised to see just how much of a difference it made. So much so that the team had a ‘well that was different!’ moment afterwards.  

Our cows and their calves will now stay out till the grass stops growing, normally in early November but it really depends on the weather.  If there's a really wet or cold spell we can take them in a bit earlier. They still have access to an outdoor area during the winter, but most prefer to stay in the shed which has been specially designed so the calves can stay with their mums.