Designing a grazing paddock

When you’re designing a grazing paddock, analyze and measure the number of acres then figure how many animals you can run on it. 

Ed Rayburn is a forage agronomist at West Virginia University. He says the first thing to look at is how the land lays as it relates to soil types and topography.

"Some land will lay real steep, some land lays real flat and it does relate to the geology under the surface which in itself relates to soil type and conditions.  Topography also impacts supplying water to the paddocks," says Rayburn. "So not only are you looking at soil situations, you're looking at ease of getting water to those paddocks."

Animals need access to water within 800 feet of any point in the pasture. Advances in water systems make it easier to ensure there is always water available.

Where the soil is in relation to creeks has a major impact on drainage, which then affects what kind of forage will grow. Rayburn says it's best to minimize the differences in soils within the paddock so that forage growth will be fairly uniform. 

Calculate where the fencing boundaries will be by the species and number of livestock, the amount of forage mass that can be produced, and your production goals. 

You also have to decide whether you want the fencing to be permanent, or movable.

"I do encourage them to look at using some temporary fencing to fine-tune, especially in critical times," he says. " As you get into a drought period, a farmer I think benefits from being a little more critical in their management than when things are going real good."