Spring is the farming season around here. After each winter, there’s always plenty to do to get the homestead back into shape. We clean out the chicken coop and rabbit pens, make repairs to the fences, and let the cows out into the pasture.
Around here, the cows get put in a large holding pen in the barn for winter. Because of the way our barn’s roof slopes, too much snow piles up for it to be safe for them in the pasture. Plus, it’d be really hard to get them hay out there.
So each fall we round them up. We put the bull in one pen and the mamas and steers (or heifers) in the largest one.
There they stay all winter long. It’s easy to access for feed and water, and there’s plenty of space for the small herd we have.
But, once the snow melts, they’re eager to get back out on the pasture.
The first year we had them, I let the cows out too soon. There wasn’t enough grass to fill them, so I had to feed them hay too.
Then it snowed again. Oops! That was a mess.
So I learned my lesson. It’s not a good thing to let the cows out into the pasture too early.
What I Look For Before I Let the Cows Out
Now each spring, I have a mental checklist of sorts. When the majority of items on the list are met, I walk the fence and make any repairs.
Then, I let all the cows out except for the bull. He stays in the barn until July, so I don’t have any unexpected breeding going on. I want spring baby calves, not winter ones! Milking in the winter stinks.
Here’s the list of what I look for:
- The grass in the yard needing mowed (if grass is getting taller here, it is in the pasture as well!)
- Temperatures consistently above freezing at night and at least 60 during the day
- The snow (and all the piles from where we plowed) has melted
- We have new baby cows who are nursing well and nibbling on the hay
Waiting means I have to feed them more hay. But it reduces the chances of another unexpected snowstorm, and means there’s plenty of grass for them to eat.
It also means the babies are born in the barn instead of in the field, where I have to worry more about coyotes or cougars.
Preparing the Fence
Deer are hard on electric fences in the winter when they’re unplugged. Each spring, I have to walk the fence and restring it in several places.
Make sure you prepare your fence BEFORE you let your cows out. Otherwise you’ll waste a ton of time chasing cows that think the grass in your yard looks way tastier than the stuff in the field.
This year, my husband and I strung three barbed wire lines across the side of the barn. It used to be wooden rails there, but over the years they’ve fallen and many were too old or warped to go back up properly. So I’m hoping the barbed wire will prevent escapes.
The goal is to eventually run barbed fence all around the outside perimeter. This will last a lot longer, and will save me time each spring trying to find where the electric line is down.
Then, we can run electric inside the perimeter to break the pasture into smaller sections.
This year went a little differently. Only one of my cows had a baby before I let them out. My other one wasn’t showing and I was beginning to think she wasn’t actually bred.
So, I put her out as well and planned to just keep an eye on her and pen her back up when she started bagging up.
Except…she fooled me!
The day after I put them out, she had her calf. And thankfully, everything went well. They look so cute resting in the field afterwards.
So, I may reevaluate my position on keeping them in the barn until after delivery. But…I’m not sure. It’s nice to have them easily accessible in case there is a problem and we need to call the vet or something.
And I’m still nervous about coyotes and cougars. They’re our main predators, and a newborn baby calf makes a good target.
I’d love to hear what you do if you have cattle! Do you keep them in the barn until after delivery, or let them out to have the calves in the pasture?
The Cows Love the Pasture!
After a winter of eating hay and being in the barn, the cows LOVE being back in the pasture. They run around and kick up their heels a bit. They nibble the fresh grass.
And they explore the whole place. It’s so much fun to watch them.
Cows out in the pasture is a definite sign of spring!