While paddocks are commonplace on many farms, there are plenty of beef units where they are not.
On such farms, herd owners should think about setting up some paddocks to improve grazing management and grass utilisation.
Paddock grazing is not straightforward. So, for beginners, outlined are five tips to setting up a rotation.
1. Focus on a small area at the start
When setting up paddocks, always start with a small area and focus on one grazing group.
As grass growth and ground conditions change throughout the season, managing a small area of paddocks makes it easier to learn as you go.
Start with an area of 10 to 20 acres. Once you get confident about how much grass is needed to keep grazing animals fed, you can set up more paddocks on another part of the farm.
2. How many paddocks will be needed?
At the start, aim to provide two fresh grazing allocations per week. For example, let cattle into fresh grass on a Monday and again on Thursday.
This means two paddocks per week are needed. If grazed paddocks are rested for three weeks between each grazing, then you will need around seven paddocks in total.
3. Don’t get hung up on paddock size
Grass growth will increase during May and June, so a smaller area will carry cattle. Equally, grass growth is lower in late summer, so a larger area is needed for stock.
Therefore, do not get hung up on paddock size. The key is being flexible as grass growth increases or decreases during the season.
Start with bigger paddocks. It is easier to split a big paddock in smaller allocations when grass growth is strong, compared with making small paddocks bigger when growth rates are low.
4. Don’t rush into permanent fencing
For a farmer trying out paddock grazing for the first time, there is a lot to learn around managing grass, moving stock, estimating how much grass is needed to meet cattle demand and when fertiliser is needed.
So in year one, work with temporary electric fencing rather than spending money on more permanent fences.
As the season progresses, you will see how the ground carries cattle and growth rates develop. Use this info for the following year should you wish to put more permanent fencing in place.
5. Water provision
The same goes with providing additional water troughs. At the start, set up fencing to try to make best use of existing water troughs.
Once you are more confident about how the rotation is working, you can either reposition existing troughs or install new ones at the most suitable locations.