When starting a rotational grazing system, one of the things you need to know is the answer to, “What are paddocks?”
What Are Paddocks?
In a quick answer, paddocks are fenced-in areas in a pasture used to keep livestock enclosed on one specific area of land. The word paddock comes from the Old English word, pearroc, meaning “an enclosure.” Essentially, a paddock is taking a large field and turning into a small field to 20 or maybe more small fields.
Depending on the operation, some people choose to have a lot smaller paddocks while another producer may choose a few larger paddocks. Paddock size depends on how much land is available, how many livestock will be grazing there, how long of a rest period you want, and many other things.
Why Should You Divide Pastures Into Paddocks?
Dividing large pastures into paddocks (or little pastures) is done to help manage the pasture. When livestock is left to one giant pasture, they are free to graze whatever they want, whenever they want. When left that way, livestock will always go back to eat the new growth of a plant, never allowing a rest period. A rest period is important as it allows the plants to improve root growth and new leaves, improving soil health. So, when you divide pastures into paddocks, the livestock are able to go somewhere else to graze on new pastures.
Other benefits of paddocks are:
- manure distribution
- controlling forage quality
- weed control
- increasing stocking rate
- improve livestock health
- lower machinery cost
How Often to Rotate Paddocks?
Different ranches will have different answers to this question. It all depends on what the goals of the ranch are. While some people are very intensive about their management, sometimes moving multiple times a day, others may only rotate paddocks once a week.
The amount of livestock in a paddock needs to be taken into consideration as well. When a pasture is grazed using high stock density, the plants being grazed are increased. As a rule of thumb, the higher the stock density, the more uniform the grazing. Which is what allows the more desirable plants to come back stronger. Essentially, you can manipulate the enclosed area to meet your needs.
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How to Make Paddocks
When designing your paddock layouts, you need to be sure each paddock has 3 things.
Having a strong perimeter fence around the entire property should be on of your first goals. Once you have the perimeter fence set where you want you can start dividing pastures into smaller pastures. Depending on your spending budget, resources, and time, this can be done using a number of different fencing options. To make a small paddock at 1898 Ranch, we choose to use fiberglass step in posts and run an electric wire reel through them. We just connect the electric wire to the side of the paddock that has an electric wire going along the perimeter fence.
While most ranches will not have level areas or the same soil type on the entire property, it is important to manage the paddock rotations. Using a temporary fencing system allows movement of paddocks when needed based on weather conditions or weak pasture plants.
Just remember to keep livestock within a reasonable distance to a water source, especially in the hot summer months. Trying to give the livestock shade in that period of time is also an important factor to remember.
What Livestock Can Use Paddocks
There is no end to what type of livestock can use paddocks. Horse owners, cattle ranchers, and even pig owners all use and love the small enclosure that a paddock makes versus a continuous grazing system.