Rotational Grazing Tips: Portable fencing is an effective pasturing system

Grazing Tips
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Since we started raising sheep back in 2008, we practiced rotational grazing to help manage our pasture and promote the health of our flock. Portable electric fencing is an easy and cost-effective way to implement this system.

Rotational grazing has several goals. It is designed to promote a healthy pasture and healthy animals by promoting the growth of nutrient-rich grasses and forage, while lowering the parasite load without the use of chemical medications. The main principle is to limit livestock to a small grazing area for a relatively short period of time, before moving them on to a fresh section of pasture. This ensures that the sheep will eat most of the forage in a given area because they have less option to be choosy.

Given a wide range, sheep will naturally eat the tastiest grasses and plants and ignore the weeds, allowing them to go to seed. By confining them, the sheep are more likely to eat all the available forage. Intensive grazing also gives the pasture time to recover between grazing sessions, as the sheep aren’t compacting the soil by walking on it, or over-grazing their favorite spots.

Perhaps most importantly, rotating livestock is an organic and chemical-free way to manage parasites. Most intestinal worms have a 2-3 week life cycle. By moving the sheep on to a new area every few days, they are not in the field when the eggs in their manure hatch, so those pests die off without a host. By the time the animals are back on that section of pasture, the grass has regrown, the manure has enriched the soil, and the parasite load has subsided.

On our rocky, steep land, we’ve found that high-tensile electric perimeter fence does an excellent job defining pasture boundaries and keeping our livestock safe. To subdivide inside the pasture, we use 3-strand electric wire on a reel, which can be configured in any shape we like.

Resources:

Living With Sheep by Chuck Wooster and Geoff Hansen

Multi-strand fencing from Premier 1 Supplies

Find an extension service in your area for farming support.

Published by Sarah Scully

Sarah is the owner/operator of Vermont Natural Sheepskins. She is an avid knitter and knitwear designer. She also enjoys cooking and gardening.

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