While everything else has been going on around the ranch, someone has been diligently checking cattle on summer pasture. While they are pretty low maintenance at this time of year they still needs to have water and grass checked, animal health assessed and mineral provided.
Frequency of checking
In the spring when the grass is growing fast, cattle are moved more often to avoid overgrazing. Overgrazing is when a cow comes back and clips grass that she has already clipped before it has had a chance to recovery. But as summer progresses, grass grows slower and cows can be moved less frequently without any threat of over-grazing.
In the summer, cow-calf pairs are typically checked very 3-5 days. They have ample grass and access to water. The yearlings are checked daily as they have a water system that needs to be working everyday.
What are we checking for?
First we are ensuring all the cattle are where they are supposed to be. No fences are broken and no one has gotten out. This is usually pretty obvious.
Second, we are checking grass conditions to see if they should be moved to the next pasture. We also check the water every time we are in a pasture. Cattle tend to congregate around the water on hot days. We want to take a look at water quality and quantity. A dugout can get low in the summer and that might require cattle to be moved or a water system put in so cattle can access clean water out of a trough.
Third, we are accessing overall health of the herd. Are any animals separated from the group, lame, etc. Moving into the fall we are also checking for any signs of disease, particularly respiratory issues in calves, that need treatment.
Most feed (including pasture) grown in Canada is deficient in copper, zinc, selenium, cobalt, iodine and manganese for beef cattle. These minerals are required in trace amounts but have huge impact on animal health, productivity and reproductive capability of cattle. Several years ago we tested the grass in our summer pastures throughout the growing season to determine what nutrients were needed and when for the beef cows. For several years we had a custom made mineral mix, but have since found a standard mineral sold that has a very similar formula to the custom mix this is appropriate for our cows.
There are many different mineral programs out there.We use both salt blocks and a loose mineral. Since we don’t want the mineral to weather (that is get rained on and hard) we only put out enough for 3-5 days. This also helps us monitor intake to ensure they consumption is within an appropriae range. This method allows each animal to choose how much they eat but does not guarantee even consumption by all animals.