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Rotational Grazing on a South Facing Slope  RSS feed

 
Mackenzie Smith
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Location: Green Bay, 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
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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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Mackenzie Smith
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Thanks for the input!
 
Travis Johnson
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I have something similar to yours and they do fine, but I only have sheep.
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 391
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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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
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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
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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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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Mackenzie Smith
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Thanks everyone for the feedback!  Sorry for the lack of details.

So for example, let's say that there are 4 paddocks, like what is in the picture below. The red section is the laneway, and the yellow sections are the paddocks. The red laneway is the top of the hill, and the hill faces south. Because of the budget, I can have one shelter connected to the laneway. This shelter is for worst case scenarios for the sheep, goats, and horses that we currently have. There are large hardwoods at the bottom of each paddock that serve as shelter for most occasions. There is no running water on the property, only 2 deep wells. I plan to have 1 water trough for each field.

I feel as though I should have no less than 4 paddocks since I want to rotate each of the 3 species separate. That allows one of the fields to always be resting. Should there be more paddocks? Should they be close to equal acreage?
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Bonnie Johnson
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I think that in several of the pastures you would have enough shade but in those longer and bigger pastures you probably would need more shade in the summer. 

I am going to say that you should probably make the pastures more equal in size and go with more pastures for a couple of reasons. One is that if the pastures are more equal in size then you can get a better idea of how quickly the animals are grazing down the pasture and when to move them. IF that pastures aren't the same size then it will be much harder to figure out when the pastures are grazed down enough. If one pasture is bigger than another then you won't be able to move the animals as soon
and this could expose them to more worm load. Then you would need to worm the animals and have to handle the animals which creates more stress on the animals and more stress on you.  You may not want to have both sheep and goats. Sheep and goats share parasites so it will be harder to rest a paddock long enough to break a parasite cycle even if you graze horses and and pigs directly after the sheep or the goats. 

I went to the effort to permanently fence 8 pastures for rotational grazing for our horses, cattle and goats. Have about 18 acres in rotational grazing. I used high tensile with six strands every other one hot and the negative wires grounded in each paddock. Some goat fence woven wire and some cattle panels. Had to use the cattle panels to be able to fence in my fence rows without cutting down all the trees and bushes that the goats love to eat. On the last pasture I just finished fencing, I used some chain link and plastic pallets and wood pallets. I got all the pallets for free. The pallets are about 300 feet of fence line on the permanent winter goat pasture area and that makes pasture number 8. 

I also have chickens and pigs. The chickens just go where ever they want that they aren't fenced out of. The pig are in one pasture/mud zone but I hope to get them on rotational grazing this spring. The goats are moved through the 8 paddocks and the horses and cattle follow the goats. The goats eat down the brush and weeds and then the horses and cattle come in and graze down the shorter grasses which is infected with goat worms.  I like to move the goats every 7 days but sometimes in the early summer they stay 10 days due to heavier growth of foliage. I actually have a moveable goat shelter. WE call it a the goatastoga. It looks a lot like a connestoga wagon from the pioneer days but has a floor in it made from wire mesh panels used to screen gravel. The poo and pee just flows through The top is a billboard white tarp over heavy grey plastic conduit hoops. It has steps for the goats to climb to get in .The running gear were for a hay wagon and I bought the running gear at an auction for 150 dollars. I move the goat-a-stoga with the goats.  We did rent a trencher when we first moved hear and ran some hydrants out pretty far from our well, but I still have to run hoses for the goats automatic waterer. The horses shelter the trees most of the time. I live in north central Ohio and we have the goats on rotation from about early may to November. This year we were lucky and I was able to leave them on rotation until Thanksgiving.


Having 8 pastures has cut down on how much I need to worm the goats. It has basically eliminated the need to worm our horses. We have four horses. I wormed the calves when they were young and haven't had to worm them since and they are about 5 months old now. We have three calves now. PUt the last steer in the freezer in January of 2016. 

We have an egg mobile but the chickens don't like it. So for now it is parked at the house for the winter. Maybe we will use it again next spring. 

We ran about 40 head of goats this past summer that was with the kids from the spring. This coming year we may be running close to 60 head and that will probably be maxing out our pastures for goats. WE have Kiko, Kiko crosses and dairy goats. The milk goats stay up by the house for ease of milking.

I used electro net for the goats for about two years. The horses were all kept in by electric tape. Moving the electro net got old so that is why I permanently fenced in all the pastures into rotational grazing paddocks. I truly love the permanent grazing areas I put in. Having 8 rotational paddocks allows me to give each paddock a much longer rest and really allows me to beat the worm cycle for the goats.   And yes, I have a laneway and it is necessary for moving the animals around and it allows the horses to get to their water trough and salt without trapping them in a specific pasture. 


good luck!

bonnie
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 391
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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I'd make the paddocks much more similar in size.  Otherwise, what happens when the critters in a smaller paddock need to be moved but the ones in a larger paddock aren't even close?  Temporary wire would allow ultimate flexibility and eliminate those scenarios, but with fixed paddocks you'll make things a lot easier on yourself if they're at least close to the same size.

Rather than put a water trough in each paddock, you could place them on fence lines so two paddocks share one trough.  The difference in cost might allow you to afford further subdivisions of the pasture.

You also might consider grazing the sheep and goats together.  I have no first-hand experience here, but they're fairly complementary grazers/browsers, and combining them might lower your work load considerably.
 
Bonnie Johnson
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I actually move the water trough with the goats when I move them and their goat-a-stoga. I also move their salt block and they feed troughs. I actually do put feed out for them even in the summer because it helps keep them coming when to me and thinking that the mini truck or the tractor is bringing good things. All the goats come running when they hear me pulling up to their pasture with the mini truck or tractor. I then get to look over the goats and check their condition. I look at them to see if they have injuries and if they need worming. It is easy to move them to another pasture. I also have a call for them so they will also come to that. They will follow me or the mini truck/tractor to the the next grazing area. They know they are supposed to be in that area when I move their goat-a-stoga in their pasture.  I leave hoses in place but move their waterer that has an automatic float valve on it.  This keeps me from having to buy  a bunch of water troughs and keeps me from having to fill water troughs all the time.  I shut the gate on the new goat pasture, open the gate on the old pasture so the horses and cattle can go in after the goats. I leave the horses gate open so they move down the lane way to their water trough with automatic float valve. The horses and cattle have their own salt block.  I am not sure where I will put the pigs in the rotation. But I am sure I will work something out.
 
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