A combination of portable electric
fencing and permanent field fencing has made it possible to manage SkyLines
pastures to achieve these three production goals
without relying on chemicals:
improve the quality of forage
- Maximize the
amount of available forage
Depending on the size of the pasture, the animals spend from three days to two weeks in each pasture.
I try to follow the "take half, leave half" aproach, leaving enough
leaf surface to allow for photosynthesis and regrowth.
Then the animals are
moved to a fresh pasture, allowing the former
one to rest, regrow, and begin to cleanse itself of
parasites or infective organisms.
The entire farm is grazed
two to three times per summer, with
rest periods averaging four
to six weeks. Wintertime rest periods are four
to six months.
FENCING UPDATE 2012
Portable electric fencing is a terrific tool for the grazier. However,
moving the 3-strand portable electric fencing (3-4 strands are A MUST for keeping sheep in) every few days or once a week
has become a burden. It's clear that my time
can be more productively spent on other farm projects.
So several years ago
I began subdividing the property into permanent pastures of woven wire field fencing with metal T-posts, wooden corner posts and line braces.
This is definitely work and an added expense, but it's worth it to me.
I now have the 65-acre farm subdivided
into 10 permanent pastures. My goal is 15 or 20 permanent pastures, and then I'll
use the portable electric to
further subdivide further
to allow even longer rest/regrowth periods, and also to help stockpile forage for fall feeding.
Though my use of it has evolved over the years, portable electric fencing has been an integral
part of building this sustainable grazing operation, and I wouldn't want to be without it!
FENCING UPDATE 2018
Now that the sheep have been sold, the pressure to build permanent sheep-tight fences has all but disappeared. Electric fencing is now my favorite, and
far and away the easiest fencing to work with and maintain.
Each year's feeder steers get trained to 1-strand electric fence within 2 weeks of their arrival at the farm, in a "training pen" with a
field fenced perimeter and several 1-strand subdivisions inside.
Now that I don't have to build permanent field fencing, I've
been able to easily subdivide the 20-acre "hayfield pasture" in the photo above, adding another six 3+ acre pastures. My total number
of beef pastures is now 14, and I'll continue subdividing them even further over the next few years.
Pigs: Each year's feeder pigs get trained to 2-strand electric fence tape starting from day one. These guys are so intelligent, they all learn
the lesson within a couple of days! Every summer they rotate through eight small pastures from spring to fall. This is a fast enough rotation to
keep them in lush green grass all season AND move them before they start rooting. Hurrah for electric fencing!