Stocker Cattle on Pasture


Larry Smith, D.V.M.

Lodi, WI 


Our goal is to produce 600 pounds of gain per acre of pasture each summer when grazing stocker calves weighing 400-600 pounds at turnout.


Animal Management


When animals arrive at the farm, they are vaccinated with modified live IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV and 7-Way Clostridial vaccine.  This regime is repeated two to three weeks later.

Parasite Control

Control of internal and external parasites plays an important role in weight-gain.

If cattle purchased in Wisconsin during the winter are dewormed at purchase time, then deworming at turnout is not necessary.

If Dectomax, Ivomec, Eprenex or Cydectin are used, deworm 21days and again 60 days after turnout.  Two dewormings are necessary after turnout to clean up the animals and the pastures of parasites.

If the Ivomec Sustained Release Bolus is used at turnout, it will deworm the animal daily for 105 days.

If Safeguard is put into the salt-mineral mix or used as a block, deworm 4 weeks, then 8 weeks after turnout.  Eight inches of bunk space must be allowed per animal in order to achieve consistent dewormer-mineral consumption.

If stockers are purchased in the spring, the following options are:

–give the Ivomec Sustained Release Bolus;

–or use Dectomax, Ivomec, Cydectin or Eprinex to deworm at turnout, again at day 35after turnout, again at day 70 after turnout;

–or use Panacur or Safegrard to deworm at turnout, day 28 and day 56.

Examples of the economic return for good parasite control can be shown by results of two studies I conducted in Wisconsin.  One study, using Dectomax at turnout on cattle that have not been previously dewormed, resulted in a 33.6 pound increase in weight gain over 140 days compared to the non-dewormed animals.  Another study, using the Ivomec Sustained Release Bolus, resulted in a 41.5 pound increase in weight gain over the non-dewormed animals.

In summary, all grazing-stocker studies conducted the last 15 years in Wisconsin for one grazing season have shown the least increase in weight gain of treated compared to controls was 22 pounds; the most was 67 pounds.


Pink Eye Prevention

Fly Control

Very good control of the horn fly or back fly has been obtained using diazinon (Patriot brand) fly tags or with the third generation pyrethroid tags.

Face flies are best controlled using dust bags.

Stable fly problems can be diagnosed by observing animals bunched up in the pasture during mid to late afternoon.  The stable fly sucks blood around the ankle area, then leaves to breed in rotting organic matter.  There seems to be no long-term solution to give animals relief.  Sprays applied to the leg area may help for a day or two but soon washes off in the wet grass.



Ralgro is the implant I am currently using.  One problem to be aware of is that on high legume pastures the high estrogen implants may cause riding or prolapse problems. A weight gain increase of 20-30 pounds can be expected during the grazing season.


Isonophor in Salt-mineral Mix

Bovatec is the most palatable of the isonophors.  In order to achieve additional weight gains of 20-30 pounds a grazing season, two factors must be considered:  the animal must consume this product daily, and approximately 8 inches of bunk space must be allowed per animal to achieve consistent daily consumption.


Watering System

The ideal watering system is designed so no animal must travel over 500 feet to a water source.  Such design encourages animals to come individually.  Greater distances cause them to come to the watering point as a group, resulting in overgrazing near the water source and under-grazing of the most distant area from the water source.


Pasture Management

Frost Seeding

Most of my pastures are frost-seeded with Marathon red clover at the rate of two pounds per acre each spring as soon as the snow leaves (early March).

Pasture Composition

Orchardgrass, bluegrass and clover make up 2/3 of the total acres; bromegrass, bluegrass and clover make up 1/3 of the total acres.  The goal is for 40% of the forage to be red or white clover, but this is difficult to accomplish.

The problem with orchardgrass is that when it is 10-12 inches high it is highly palatable, but at the 18-24 inch height it becomes extremely unpalatable.  We solve this problem by making haylage on all paddocks that were not grazed by the last week of May.  This enables us to get these paddocks back into the rotation.  Another problem we have encountered with orchardgrass is that later in the summer the end of the leaves turn brown and die.  When this happens the orchardgrass is very unpalatable.  This is either a rust or a fungal infection.  When we planted the orchardgrass years ago we did not realize there were rust resistant varieties.

The problem with bromegrass is that during very warm months of late June, July and August, the recovery after grazing is very poor.

Red Clover

If the composition and population of grass species in a pasture is satisfactory, but the clover population cannot successfully be increased to more than 5% by using frost seeding, the following procedure has increased the clover population to 20-25% with little adverse effect on the grass stand.  Frost seed in early March.  As soon as the grass starts to grow, turn out enough animals on that area to keep the grass totally grazed down.  They will tramp in the clover while keeping the grass competition under control.  When the new clover plants are about ½ inch tall, approximately between the 10th-15th of May, remove all the animals.  Regraze about three weeks later and leave about 1-2 inch of residual forage.  The normal amount of residual (2-3 inches) is left after the remaining rotations.


Other legumes we have tried

Birdsfoot Trefoil–regrowth after grazing is too slow

Alfalfa–present varieties lack persistence when intensively grazed

Kura Clover– we presently have only 20 acres but this clover looks very promising


Other Forages

During September and October of 1999 and 2000 we have fed fresh chopped whole corn.  That has resulted in a weight gain of 3 pounds per day.


Duration of Time on One Paddock

Animals are moved daily or every other day depending on the amount of forage available.  If it rains, the animals are moved daily.



At this time, we use PVC posts and one high tensile electric wire on all new inside divider fences.