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Paddock Design, Fencing, and Water Systems for Controlled Grazing

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Paddock Design, Fencing, and Water Systems for Controlled Grazing

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  • This is a really useful article - implementing a viable transition plan will be the challenge. Thanks for sharing.
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  • 1. Paddock Design, Fencing and Water Systems for Controlled Grazing A Publication of ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Ron Morrow, Interest in controlled grazing is increasing throughout the United States. Controlled grazing systemsrevised by Alice Beetz are economically feasible and are now more easily managed because of developments in fencing andNCAT Agriculture water technology. This publication covers some of the basics of paddock design and current fencing andSpecialists, 2005 water technology. Paddock design needs to be based on landscape, land productivity, water availabilityUpdated and Revised and the number and types of animals in the system. Water systems are more complex and expensiveby Lee Rinehart than fencing systems. Producers need to understand all the technology available before establishingNCAT Agriculture a grazing system. A good way to explore the technology is to order catalogs from companies that sellSpecialist fencing or water systems.© NCAT 2009ContentsIntroduction ..................... 1Forage availability ........ 2Paddock design ............. 2Fencing ............................. 3Wire, poly wire and polytape ..................................... 4Water systems ................ 4References ....................... 5Further resources ........... 5Appendix: Fencingsuppliers ........................... 6 The paddock to the left was just grazed. Photo by A.E. Beetz, 2005. Introduction Some producers will use temporary fencing to help develop a grazing system, and then T his publication is an introduction to designing a grazing system. Start- put in high-tensile wire after determining the ing a grazing program can be fairly proper location and frequency of rotation.ATTRA—National Sustainable simple. It is usually best for producers to Some equipment and experience are neces-Agriculture Information Service develop a program instead of jumping in sary when working with high-tensile wire.(www.attra.ncat.org) is managedby the National Center for Appro- and subdividing their farms into paddocks. For example, a spinning jenny is a must inpriate Technology (NCAT) and is Dividing existing pastures in half, closing unrolling the wire. A crimping tool is neces-funded under a grant from theUnited States Department of pasture gates or stringing temporary fencing sary when working with lower-gauge (thicker)Agriculture’s Rural Business- can be a start to controlled grazing. Watch-Cooperative Service. Visit the wire, which should be used if deer are a prob-NCAT Web site (www.ncat.org/ ing livestock graze, learning to monitorsarc_current.php) for pastures and using temporary fencing for lem. Deer will not break the lower-gauge wiremore information on subdivisions all advance the system without but might break a higher gauge. Some peopleour sustainable agri-culture projects. exposing the producer to large risks. who work with graziers to establish controlled
  • 2. grazing systems prefer to develop water lines Forage availability first and then do the fencing. It is important to calculate the forage needs The first considerations, however, are the of the grazing animals and how much land number of paddocks and their size and shape. is necessary for periodic rotations. Iowa Paddock size is determined by the number of State University Extension has educational animals, the frequency of rotation and how material that includes useful worksheets for much forage is needed by the type of animal calculating forage availability (ISU, 2009). being grazed. For example, some cow-calf Generally, a stock rate of 30,000-50,000 operations are never stocked heavily enough pounds of animals for 1 acre over a dayRelated ATTRA to justify a daily rotation because their ani- works well. Th is density range is based onPublications mals do not have high enough nutrition how much forage is available, how muchAssessing the Pasture requirements to justify that much control. the animals will eat in one day and howSoil Resource much residual forage is left in the pasture. If a producer is rotating every three days,Dairy Production Stocking rate or stocking density? the density is 10,000-17,000 pounds of ani-on Pasture Stocking rate is the number of animals or ani- mals for 1 acre for that period. If the ani-Dung Beetle Benefits mal units on a unit land area over a specified mals are high-producing (milk) animals,in the Pasture period of time. the lower figure is used. If forage is abun-Ecosystem Stocking density is the number of animals on dant, the higher figure is used.Freeze Protection a unit land area at any instant (Heitschmidtfor Solar-powered and Taylor, 1991). Cow-hand arithmetic simplifiedLivestock Watering For temperate pastures, stocking density Here is an example of some cow-handSystems may be more important than stocking rate. arithmetic:Managed Grazing in Manipulate stocking density by adjusting Thirty 1,100-pound beef animals need about 1Riparian Areas paddock area to size of existing herd and acre of pasture a day. If the animals are rotated forage regrowth. twice a week, paddock size should be 3-4 acresMultispecies Grazing each. If, on average, a paddock is ready to beOrganic Alternatives grazed after 30 days of rest, a producer needsto Treated Lumber Paddocks should be small enough for uni- 11 paddocks. Remember, a paddock cannot be form forage grazing. Paddocks can then be grazed and rest at the same time. Rest for 30 daysPasture, Rangeland, and plus grazing for three days divided by a three-Grazing Management adjusted in size as the season progresses and day rotation requires 11 paddocks. Another way forage growth slows down. If you have toPastures: Sustainable to figure this is to divide the days of rest (30) by keep animals on a paddock for more than the number of days grazing each paddock (3)Management five days to graze to a set stubble height, this and add one, or 30/3+1=11 paddocks.Pastures: probably indicates surplus forage, which can The figures above are an example. ProducersGoing Organic occur early in the season. If the animals can- can use the same calculations with their ownRotational Grazing not keep up with forage growth during the figures to determine paddock numbers on their early season, consider cutting some of the own farms or ranches.Ruminant Nutrition forage as hay. The livestock can be turnedfor Graziers onto the mowed fields after appropriate rest Paddock designSolar-powered and recovery of the grass.Livestock Watering Most people think of paddocks as flat, sym-Systems The following ATTRA publications will help metrical squares. Unfortunately, most farms you make some of these decisions: are not flat. They have hills, streams and often trees. A general recommendation is to • Rotational Grazing allow cattle access to water within 800 feet • Ruminant Nutrition for Graziers of any point on the pasture. Research has • Pasture, Rangeland, and Grazing shown that if cattle have to walk more than Management this distance to water, they tend to under- graze farther from the water source. • Pastures: Sustainable Management Cattle also tend to travel to water in groups • Dairy Production on Pasture when a lane is used or when they are farPage 2 ATTRA Paddock Design, Fencing and Water Systems for Controlled Grazing
  • 3. How long should animals remain in a paddock? Use the following principles to determine how long animals should remain on your paddocks: Prevent grazing of regrowth Plants may have enough grazable regrowth after six to 12 days The shorter the period in the paddock, the better the plant and animal production Protein intake declines the longer the animal is in a paddock.away from the water. This can be importantin determining the type of water system touse. The appropriate distance to water, how- An example of electric fencing using metal T-post. By A. E. Beetz, 2005.ever, can vary depending on terrain, type ofcattle, forage availability and grazing goals Some of the necessary equipment for design-of the producer. The recommendation of ing and constructing electric fences includes:800 feet is probably best used in a system • charger (energizer) and grounding rodsdesigned for maximum forage use. • high-tensile wire, 10, 12.5 or 14 gaugeHowever, landscape should be considered.Livestock may prefer to graze some slopes or • tensioners and insulatorsflat areas over other parts of the paddock. If a • poly tape and poly wire for sectioningpaddock has a lot of variation in this aspect, off paddocksit may be poorly used because some areas • tools, including volt meters, crimpingwill be overgrazed and others undergrazed. devices, lighting arrestors and surgeIn this case, it is best to fence according to protectorsthe landscape or use temporary fencing to • posts, such as wood and steel (forcontrol access within the paddock. permanent and corner braces) andWhen designing a grazing system, also step-in posts (temporary)consider differences in the productivity of The first step in fencing is choosing a low-the land. For example, in a two-day rota- impedance, high-voltage charger. There aretion, some paddocks may need to be larger several excellent ones on the market that arethan others to have the same amount of powered by the sun, a battery or the powerforage available. grid. Charger quality varies considerably depending on the make, the size of the bat-Fencing tery and the amount of voltage supplied.Electric fencing is very popular among Proper grounding of the system is absolutelygraziers. Electric fencing systems offer many essential to its success. This can be a problembenefits over conventional wire or wooden in rocky or very dry soils.fences. Light weight, ease of installation and Use fencing system catalogs to compareadaptability characterize electric fencing sys- prices and get an idea of the products andtems. Electric interior fences (that divide pad- techniques available in fencing and waterdocks within a grazing pasture or cell) can be systems. Several companies have toll-freesingle-stranded poly wire or poly tape with numbers and will send you catalogs forportable posts that can be easily installed and free. In addition, some companies offer freeremoved to make the paddock bigger or installation manuals you can download fromsmaller, depending on forage quantity. their Web sites. A list of major suppliers iswww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 3
  • 4. included in the Appendix. If you call for a wire on electric cord reels. Reels cost about catalog, ask about dealers or company rep- $5 and can be found at hardware stores. resentatives in your area. These people can Some producers use high-tensile wire as a sometimes give you a better deal than the feeder wire (carrying electric current to pad- company itself and may provide some practi- dock fences) and poly wire to divide pastures cal consultation. Be aware that some custom into smaller areas as needed. Some produc- fencing companies may overbuild fences or ers say that ice on poly wire during the win- use more wires than necessary. ter can be a problem. One person made the mistake of trying to knock ice off and broke Advances in fencing technology now allow the wire filaments. Again, it is important to a producer to have greater control over the try out several of these options to determine use and growth of pastures. Water system what is best for each situation. Pasture walks improvements, such as solar pumps and other or farm visits are good ways to find out what devices, enable producers to have enough pad- other producers are using. Contact your local docks to rotate cattle frequently and also have Cooperative Extension office or National water available in each paddock. Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to see if there are producers in your area Wire, poly wire and poly tape willing to host a walk or tour. There are many fencing materials available. High-tensile wire offers the most permanent NRCS and Cooperative Extension phone numbers can be obtained in the federal and option. In the presence of good perimeter county government sections, respectively, of fences and cattle that are trained to respect your local telephone directory. Also, you can an electric fence, one strand of wire is effec- access local NRCS and Extension directories tive for interior fences and paddock dividers. on the following Web sites: The wire should be strung at about shoul- Natural Resources Conservation Service der-level of the animals. By having the wire http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/ high enough, calves can creep into the next locator/app?agency=nrcs pasture and graze more abundant forage. Cooperative Extension Having two pinlock insulators on a post www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html and moving the fence to the higher one as calves begin to creep graze is an easy way of managing the system. If using wood Water systems posts, fasten the pinlock insulator with sta- Water systems should be designed for ease of ples and not the nails sometimes sold with operation and maintenance. A typical water- insulators. Some producers feel that having ing system includes a water source (pond, one wire allows calves to get used to being well, municipal water supply), a pump, a shocked and makes them harder to handle pressure gauge, piping and fittings, water as yearlings and adults. The greatest advan- troughs and automatic watering valves. Pipe tage of one wire for cattle is that the cattle can be made from various kinds of plastic. will eat underneath the wire, whereas with Black poly plastic is relatively inexpensive, more than one wire grass grows underneath easily to install, comes in 100-foot rolls and the lowest wire, and can cause the wire to can be buried in trenches. ground out, weakening or eliminating the Many producers use gravity flow or solar electrical charge. Three wires will normally pump systems with plastic pipe on top of the control sheep and goats, if the animals are ground. This works well when the temper- trained to electric fence. ature is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Pipe For a more portable system, use poly wire made of burst-proof plastic stays intact dur- and poly tape. Poly tape is more visible, but ing the winter without draining. Couplings the wind can loosens step-in fence posts, installed in the pipe at certain intervals can particularly when the ground is wet. Some branch off to portable livestock water tanks. producers, in an effort to save money, use the Small containers, such as half of a 55-gallonPage 4 ATTRA Paddock Design, Fencing and Water Systems for Controlled Grazing
  • 5. drum, can water up to 150 head of cattle andhave worked well for some producers. Makesure that water is being replenished as fast asit is being consumed. Otherwise, the cattlewill tear up the system. A watering systemmade up of an automatic float valve that dis-charges 5-8 gallons of water a minute anda water supply pipe larger than 1.25 inchesin diameter is adequate for replenishing thewater in the tank.Some devices, such as automatic float valves,are hard to keep clean, so you may want touse a strainer or filter when using pond orcreek water.The accompanying Appendix is a list of prod-uct distributors. Call to request catalogs. Thiswill help you evaluate the differences in price,and you will also find the catalogs educa-tional. Most offer shortcuts that you can useand give helpful information on how to install Floating pipe and electric fencing limit livestockfencing and water systems. access to the pond. By A. E. Beetz, 2005.References inventory, plan development, pasture management and system monitoring is provided.ISU. 2009. Pasture Management Guide for Livestock Electric Fencing for Serious Graziers. 2005. Columbia,Producers. Iowa State University Extension.www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1713B.pdf. MO: Missouri Natural Resources Conservation Ser- vice. 2005. www.mo.nrcs.usda.gov/news/news/MO%20Heitschmidt, R.K. and C.A. Taylor. 1991. Livestock NRCS%20Electric%20Fencing_low.pdfProduction, in Grazing Management: an Ecological Techniques described here are primarily for producersPerspective. Portland, OR: Timber Press. installing one-wire and two-wire fences and permanent power stations using 110-volt energizers.Further resources Watering Systems for Serious Graziers. 2006.Blanchet, Kevin, Howard Moechnig, and Jodi DeJong- Columbia, MO: Missouri Natural ResourcesHughes. 2003. Grazing Systems Planning Guide. Uni- Conservation Service. www.mo.nrcs.usda.gov/news/versity of Minnesota Extension Service. www.extension. images/Watering%20Systemslow.pdfumn.edu/distribution/livestocksystems/components/ This publication provides livestock producers with theDI7606.pdf basic information that they need to plan, design and This guide discusses the components of a grazing install water systems that will maximize animal system by taking you through the grazing manage- performance and minimize the labor necessary to ment planning process. Information on grazing resource care for their herds’ water needs.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 5
  • 6. Pfost, Donald, James Gerrish, Maurice Davis and pump sizes, and includes a comprehensive resourceand Mark Kennedy. 2007. Pumps and Watering list for supplies including solar pumps.Systems for Managed Beef Grazing. University of Fencing and Watering, in The Northeast GrazingMissouri Extension. http://extension.missouri.edu/ Guide. University of Maine Cooperative Extension.publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=EQ380. www.umaine.edu/grazingguide/Extension%20Resource% 20Topics/fencing_and_watering.htm. This publication covers such topics as water quality, Links to Cooperative Extension publications and distribution systems, specifications for pipe and tank resources from several states.Appendix: Fencing suppliersCameo Fencing McBee Agri Supply, Inc.1-800-822-5426 1-800-568-4918www.cameofencing.com (573) 696-2517Gallagher Power Fence Pasture Management Systems, Inc.1-800-531-5908 1-800-230-0024(210) 494-5211 www.pasturemgmt.comwww.gallagherusa.comGallagher POWER FENCE Manual Premier 1 Fence Supplieswww.gallagherusa.com/pf.manual.aspx 1-800-282-6631 www.premier1supplies.comGeotek, Inc.1-800-533-1680 Southwest Power Fence(507) 533-6076 1-800-221-0178www.geotekinc.com www.swpowerfence.comKencove Farm Fence Speedrite Agri-Systems1-800-536-2683www.kencove.com/fence 1-800-323-7306 www.speedrite.comKentucky Graziers Supply1-800-729-0592 Twin Mountain Fence Co.(859) 987-0215 1-800-527-0990http://kygraziers.com/kgshop www.twinmountainfence.com(Source: Stockman Grass Farmer’s Grazier’s Resource Guide)Page 6 ATTRA Paddock Design, Fencing and Water Systems for Controlled Grazing
  • 7. Notes:www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 7
  • 8. Paddock Design, Fencing and Water Systems for Controlled Grazing Updated and Revised by Lee Rinehart NCAT Agriculture Specialist © 2009 NCAT Holly Michels, Editor Amy Smith, Production This publication is available on the Web at: www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/paddock.html or www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/paddock.pdf IP152 Slot 50 Version 010510Page 8 ATTRA