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Why Clean Pastures are Important for Calves

By Hugh J. Karreman, V.M.D.

Okay, let’s start to talk about calves on pasture. First, always try to have calves on “clean” pasture. Clean means that adult cows haven’t been on it for a couple years, and neither have other calves. This is very difficult to do in practice on farms with a small land base. Therefore, at the very least do not fol­low adult cows immediately with younger animals as this not only increases parasite pressure on the young stock but also increase likelihood of Johne’s transmission to the young stock if adults are carrying the germs that cause Johne’s disease.

Many people will clip pastures in order to splatter out manure pies so the parasites dry up in the sun and wind, as well as to give a uniform regrowth of the paddock as mentioned previ­ously. If you do not like to clip pasture, then I would suggest that you have poultry and hogs to peck and root through the manure pies, which they absolutely will do. You could also fol­low with sheep or goats, as most internal parasites are species specific.

A healthy paddock for a cow.
A healthy paddock for a cow.

Grazing horses or mules right after cows have been in a pasture will “mow” the pasture down to an even height quite quickly, even right up close to manure paddies. But make sure that the horses or mules are taken out of that pasture strip af­ter twelve hours or they will quickly graze it down to the bare earth thanks to their having both lower and upper front teeth.

However, horses and mules will not destroy the existing cow pies like clipping or having poultry or hogs rooting through them would. Still try to use only clean pasture for calves, but if really tight on land consider the above recommendations.

Source: Four-Seasons Cattle Care