Six steps to setting up a paddock system
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