Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Six steps to setting up a paddock system

Gordon Peppard

The efficient production of extra grass is critical for increased stocking

1 Get a map of the farm with areas for each field/paddock

2   Decide on the number of paddocks required

  • Peak grass growing months April/May/June will normally determine paddock numbers. Ideally there should be at least 7 paddocks per grazing group with silage ground closed. Make the most of silage ground — look at dividing up silage fields with fencing parallel to the direction of operation of the mower to allow for divisions with temporary fencing.
  • Taking an example farm, with 50 one to two-year-olds, averaging 450kg over the grazing season.
  • Assuming an intake of 9kg/head gives a daily intake requirement of 450kg (9kg x 50) for 50 yearlings. Three days grazing is therefore 1350kg (450kg x 3). At a pre-grazing yield of 1400kg, this is a paddock size of 1ha.
  • The rough rule of thumb is that one hectare will carry 50 yearlings for three days

3  Determine the most appropriate water trough position in each paddock

  • Decide on main water line loop. Depending on farm layout, two loops may be required.
  • Decide on one or two troughs per paddock and their location.
  • Map the farm showing farm roadways and paddock layout.
  • Ideally water troughs should be located at the centre of the paddock.
  • If there are two troughs per paddock — they should be staggered.
  • For water troughs, the approximate cost is €1 per 4.5 litre trough capacity (one gallon), equivalent to €300 for 1,350 litres (300 gallon trough).
  • For water pipes, the approximate cost is €1 per metre of 38mm pipe.

4 Allow for multiple entrances into each paddock

5 Ideally keep paddocks square/rectangular

  • Rectangular paddocks work best; ideal depth:width ratio should be 2:1, not over 4:1. With long narrow paddocks too much walking over ground to graze the end of the paddocks can result in excessive risk of poaching.
  • One hectare equals 10,000 square metres (100 metres x 100 metres).

6 Farm roadways

  • If you can afford a farm roadway, determine the most suitable road layout to at least allow ease of turnout of cattle to drier paddocks in the spring. The approximate cost of roadways is €15-20 per metre run.
  • Get a map of the farm. Mark the location of the dry areas, wet area, obstacles to roadways etc. Mark in the location of wintering facilities
  • Design a system that allows the road to reach as many paddocks as possible on the farm.
  • Establish if the road system is for cattle only, or for heavy machinery (silage cutting) as well.
  • Minimise bends, angles and corners on road. Avoid sharp bends, with no bends less than 90 degrees
  • Source local hardcore and binding for the roadway.
  • Walk proposed roadway for any issues that do not appear on a farm map, eg, winter ponds, ESB poles, etc. Adjust if necessary.
  • Construct roadways on the southern side of hedgerows.

Gordon Peppard is programme advisor for the Teagasc Calf to Beef Programme

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