Pasture and fence, some things to consider for a good pasture are:
1) Fencing – good fencing all the way around the perimeter.
2) Water source – whether pond or stock tank.
3) Weed management.
4) Pasture rotation.
There are many types of fencing: pipe, cable, wire and woven wire, just to name a few. On our backyard ranch, we have chosen barbed wire. A tight barbed wire fence will discourage livestock from leaning over the fence and mashing it down. We use five wires across and 6′ tall T-posts.
Strong corner posts are needed to get the wire nice and tight. Corner posts should be set 3′ or more in the ground for 5′ posts above ground. Five tight wires will prevent livestock from getting in between the wires as will the T-posts being no more than 15 feet apart.
Pasture Water Source
A water source can be a pond, watershed, stock tank even an automatic waterer. Ponds are great for most of the year in some climates. They can be deadly for livestock in winter. Livestock will walk out on a frozen pond to get to the thinner ice to get a drink and will be in danger of falling through the ice, unable to get back out.
In the winter, on our backyard ranch, we have a stock tank with an electric tank heater to keep the water from turning into one big block of ice. An automatic waterer would be ideal and is next on the installation list. There are automatic waterers made that will not leak, freeze or rust. They are made for horses, livestock and all types of pets.
Pasture Weed Management
Survey your pasture for weeds. Be sure to know what type of weeds that grow in the pasture. This will ensure that you have the right type of weed control or preventative. If you are using a type of weed spray, the optimum time to spray is late spring before the weed seeds set on. Our rule of thumb on our backyard ranch has been to spray the weeds on a calm day before the day time temperature of the climate stays above 80 degrees.
Make sure to read the label on the weed control products very carefully for product handling around people and livestock. Also, the wind is a very important factor. You don’t want to kill your trees, lawn or flowers (let alone the neighbors trees) because you sprayed on a windy day.
Controlled pasture burning is also used as weed management. This is very effective, but is also dangerous. It is very important to set a “back burn” so the controlled burn does not extend past your land. It is also essential to watch the forecast and wind speed. Wind can change smoldering embers to a large unexpected fire. A permit is generally required to conduct a controlled burn. Courtesy notice to your local fire department and to your neighbors is also a good idea.
A controlled burn starts with a “back burn” or a worked up area of ground to serve as protective area around the pasture that is to be burned, to keep the fire from skipping into an unwanted area. Back burns are intentionally set, monitored and extinguished to create the protective area. Once the perimeter is protected, a controlled burn of the rest of the pasture (weather permitting) can be conducted.
Overgrazing will devastate your backyard ranch pasture. Using a “dry lot” is an option if you have limited or no pasture. Pasture rotation is dividing the pasture up into sections by fencing so that livestock can be moved around. This way the livestock are not always grazing in the same spot allowing the grass to grow and weeds to be sprayed.
Consider your type of livestock, water sources, amount of grass, number in your herd and season in your pasture rotation plan. Cattle will browse all over the pasture, while horses will find their favorite spots and only graze those spots.