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Rotational Grazing on a South Facing Slope

 
Reid Smith
Posts: 13
Location: Southside Virginia
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Hi everyone,

Below is a sketch of 6 paddocks that are all sloping down towards the south. My idea is to be able to rotate the horses, sheep, goats, chickens, & pigs (in the future) by having an alleyway at the top that connects all of the paddocks. My questions are:

1. Is this a good, efficient design?
2. Is the forest (100ft. Oaks and Maple) at the bottom sufficient protection from the elements (Virginia)?

Thanks in advance!
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Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Reid Smith wrote:Hi everyone,

Below is a sketch of 6 paddocks that are all sloping down towards the south. My idea is to be able to rotate the horses, sheep, goats, chickens, & pigs (in the future) by having an alleyway at the top that connects all of the paddocks. My questions are:

1. Is this a good, efficient design?
2. Is the forest (100ft. Oaks and Maple) at the bottom sufficient protection from the elements (Virginia)?

Thanks in advance!


we have our pastures (south facing) set up in a very similar way to what you are describing.
we have a "laneway" that provides access too all the pastures - and we move the pastures using temporary gates and electric netting.


i cant help with your other question as im not familiar enough with your conditions.
i can tell you, instead of shelter in each paddock, we chose to put the shelter in the sacrifice/dry lot area - whihc our animals always has access to.
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Reid Smith
Posts: 13
Location: Southside Virginia
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Thanks for the input!
 
Travis Johnson
Posts: 338
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I have something similar to yours and they do fine, but I only have sheep.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 108
Location: Seymour, MO
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What's the point of the alleyway?  Why not just rotate from one paddock to the next?  If the alleyway is frequently used, you can expect it to be beat down eventually, losing much of its forage quality.  Seems like a waste of space to me.

I'd suggest plenty of shade for beating the summer heat...and I don't think those trees will do it.  With the angle of the summer sun, they're unlikely to cast much shade into the paddocks as drawn, and even then only in the leftmost three.
 
Travis Johnson
Posts: 338
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Wes, you answered your own question.

The purpose of a laneway is to allow quick, easy access from one paddock area to another. IF every paddock had shelter and water, then yes as you mention it would be a waste of acreage, particularly for small homesteads that really could not afford to lose any acres to a laneway. However with that small scale comes the equally small expense of setting of shelter and water to every paddock since it is not such a great expanse they are addressing.

As the size of the farm increases, paddocks become far more beneficial however. I run sheep and only sheep and as per their particular ruminant habit, they graze 6 times per daylight hours. In between they like shelter. Since it would be cost prohibitive for me to build portable shelters in every one of my fields, or to run water lines uphill and with my furthest pasture being over a mile away; a laneway is the better approach. With a laneway 12 feet wide, they by pass particular fields as per a carefully prepared "Grazing Plan", and via opening and closing gates have access to fresh pastures, then return at their leisure. My sheep are far more healthy because of this. Not only are they ensured clean well water, my barn is designed to house the entire flock and is engineered for proper ventilation. With cool concrete to lay upon, shade overhead, a breeze blowing East to West due to the orientation of the barn, fresh water and clean bedding; they are extremely healthy sheep.

The last aspect is HUGE though has no real bearing upon the sheep, and that is just how efficient a laneway is at moving a flock of sheep (or any type of animal) from place to place. Only farmers with livestock really know the true value of having well set up pastures, paddocks and laneways that quickly and effortlessly allow animals to be moved from location to location. For a small homestead, I can see not being able to afford the land to dedicate to a laneway, but for anything much bigger than a few acres, I can't imagine affording NOT to have a laneway. The ability to move my sheep from field to field, within a covered corral, and onto the livestock trucks; has probably alleviated one of my most challenging aspects of farming.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 108
Location: Seymour, MO
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Travis,
That sort of setup may very well work for you, but I was specifically addressing the OP's questions.  From the photo and the limited information, it looks as though the only purpose of the alleyway is to move animals from one paddock to the next, which in my opinion would be a waste when one could just move directly to the next paddock.

If one were moving animals through an alley on a regular basis, such as bringing in milk cows daily, or giving them constant access to a stationary shelter or watering spot, then yes, the alley makes sense.  But if the only purpose is to move the animals from A to alley to B, then from B to alley to C, it'd be a darn sight simpler (and more efficient) to just go straight from A to B, B to C.
 
Travis Johnson
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I agree its hard to ascertain every scenario from the original posts limited information, but it looks like significant acreage to me to justify a laneway. I made the assumption that the lines depicted were straight and situated close to where he wanted, but would most likely be tucked up against the ditch of the drive just to ensure land efficiency in reality.

But I think it would be in the best interest of Reid to still have the laneway. He mentions horses which require significantly more care then the other livestock of choice, and most likely would be grazed in a different paddock then the others. Let's say he wanted to go for an evening horseback ride, or bring his horses in for nightly grooming; grabbing his horse on pasture with it grazing among other livestock, or being lead through other paddocks with other livestock; that would be a nightmare at the gate. I am not so sure about goats and pigs because I have never had them, but I know with sheep, you might get away with it the first day, but after that you would have 100 sheep following you to the gate and packed around it tight just waiting for it to be opened. Now that is a conundrum, and trust me I have been there more than once.

My laneway is 12 feet wide for a reason, I like to be able to drive a tractor down it if I have to and 12 foot gates are easy on the checkbook. However, it could be narrower. Still at an ample 12 feet wide, you would have to have a laneway 3/4 of a mile long before it took up a single acre of space. I have no idea how big the field in question is, it looks around 3 acres to me, but that is only a guess. If that holds true, then a laneway even as wide as mine would only occupy less than 1/3 of an acre (15,000 square feet).

On my farm, my ancestors built laneways too and it was not because son 1, 2 and 3 had nothing to do but pile up rocks in long rock walls 10 feet apart, they considered them a nessesity. Considering this was done in 1830-1850, pasturing animals has not changed, and so out of experience, I believe laneways are just as vital today. In this picture, just too the left of the main rock wall, you can see the second rockwall showing the laneway that existed many years ago despite having grown back up into forest. We are looking at a laneway!



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