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Extension > Agriculture > Livestock > Dairy > Grazing systems > Knee deep in grass: A survey of twenty-nine grazing operations in Minnesota > Pasture description

Pasture description

Brian Loeffler, Helene Murray, Dennis G. Johnson, Earl I. Fuller
Reviewed 2008

Pastures were divided into square or rectangular paddocks for the milking groups on 18 farms. Ten farmers divided their pastures by strip grazing, while one farmer used only a perimeter fence (see Other types of management). Pasture designs for cattle other than the milking group often varied. Figure 3 shows different paddock and strip grazing schemes.

Figure 3. Pasture that is divided using both strips and paddocks. The grazing area is sized for 12 to 24 hour grazing periods by using crosswires in both the strips and paddocks. In this example, water lines running down alternating paddock or strip fence lines are used to supply water to portable tanks. It is essential to move water tanks if back crosswires are used.

Paddock group

Paddock size ranged from 1-5 acres. Size was dependent upon herd size and pasture productivity. Paddocks were commonly designed and sized to be subdivided by crosswires into two or more sections. Subdivisions were made to limit the size of the grazing area. Subdividing was often done to provide cattle access to fresh grass after each milking. Most paddocks had direct lane access leading to the milking area to ease cattle movement. Fifteen of the 18 paddock-designed pastures had water available in the paddocks. Surface-laid water lines were used to fill portable water tanks on most farms. Three farms had buried water lines and used permanent tanks or were preparing to do so. Some graziers were planning to bury water lines and install permanent tanks after they become more experienced with MIG and when their herd size becomes stable.

Strip group

Paddock designed for strip grazing were usually longer than those in paddock-designed pastures. Some stretched the entire length of the pasture. The size of the grazing area was adjusted with front crosswires; some also used backwires. The use of backwires in conjunction with lanes, appeared effective in avoiding the grazing of regrowth and trail-making in long paddocks. Long in-paddock retracing distances were avoided on most farms by diverting the cattle into lanes leading to the milking facility. Three of the ten strip-grazing farms supplied water in the pasture. Two used surface-laid water lines and portable tanks, while one farm hauled water to the pasture daily.

Pasture layouts for other dairy cattle

Combinations of paddock, strip and continuous grazing pasture designs were often used for groups other than the milking herd. It appeared that most farms grazed other parts of the herd less intensively and on the roughest pastures.

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