Water Points

Water Points

Water the most important nutrient! It’s the largest quantity requirement for beef and dairy cattle (e.g. 15 gal/day = 125 lb/day). Water is commonly the weakest link in grazing systems. Water placement impacts grazing (overgrazing and under utilization) and nutrient (manure and urine) distribution.  If you have excessive trailing is a sign of needing better water distribution.

 

Download the entire Water Points PDF here.

Cowboy Math – Acres per Paddock

Cowboy Math – Acres per Paddock

This table assumes 5 inches of growth at turn in and good to excellent forage weighing 300 pounds per acre inch.  Livestock numbers are based on 1,000-pound animals with a calf up to 300 pounds.  Consumption rate is based on an average of 2.6 percent of body weight consumed per day throughout the year. Paddock size is an estimate that is best kept within 30% of recommended size.  Recommended paddock size is based on the assumed production information in the table.

 

Rotation Frequency

3.5

7

14

Grazing Efficiency

 

65%

50%

35%

Herd/Head

 

    ———-acres—–

10

1

2.5

7

20

2

5

14

30

3

7

21

40

4

10

28

50

5

12

35

60

5.5

15

42

70

6.5

17

49

80

7.5

19

56

90

8.5

22

62

100

9.5

24

69

150

14

36

104

200

19

49

139

250

23

61

173

300

28

73

208

Acres/     = (Animal Wt.) X (Intake Rate in % Body Weight) X (Animal No.) X (Days on Paddock) Paddock                        (Inches) X (Pounds per Acre Inch) X (% Grazing Efficiency)

Example 1

Where should I locate water in a 16-acre or smaller field?  Given: 50-head cow herd weighing 1,000 pounds, turn cattle in field at 5” height on good forage, rotation is seven days.

Answer:  The best location for water would be in the middle of a fence line, because for a seven-day rotation, 12-acre paddocks are recommended.  If all fields are of similar size, water could be placed in every other fence line provided that travel distance to water is less than 800’ (water point’s 1,600’ apart3).

Grazing Efficiency2

 

Number of Paddocks

Approximate Days

on Each Paddock

Grazing Efficiency Includes

Maintaining Minimum Stubble

Continuous

——-

40% or less

or (80% over-grazed, low yield)

4 to 6 paddocks

7 to 9 days

40 to 55%

8 to 10 paddocks

4 days

55 to 65%

24 to 45 paddocks

1 day or less

70 to 80%

Hay

——-

70 to 80%

Grazing Efficiency2

 

Number of Paddocks

Approximate Days

on Each Paddock

Grazing Efficiency Includes

Maintaining Minimum Stubble

Continuous ——-

40% or less

or (80% over-grazed, low yield)

4 to 6 paddocks 7 to 9 days 40 to 55%
8 to 10 paddocks 4 days 55 to 65%
24 to 45 paddocks 1 day or less 70 to 80%
Hay ——- 70 to 80%

3 Recommended Travel Distance to Water

Lactating Dairy

400-600’

Herds water as a group if travel distance is over 800’ or lead cow travels over hill or leaves shade for water.

Beef Cows, Stockers, Horses, Sheep, or Goats

800’

1000’ flat land

Reasons for Rotational Grazing

Reasons for Rotational Grazing

Livestock

  • Calmer livestock– having control of animals is a huge part of overall management.
  • Reduced hay fed– a 12 paddock system vs. continuous resulted in 31% less hay fed
  • Carrying capacity is increased– typically moving from a monthly rotation to a weekly rotation will increase carrying capacity by 20 to 30%
  • Increased gain per acre– rotating animals in a 12 paddock system vs. continuous grazing resulted in a 37% increase in pounds of calf per acre
  • Temperature reduction– vegetation compared to bare soil reduces temperature by ~ 8 degrees in summer
  • Improved Wildlife Habitat– Varying the height of forage and diverse forage systems improve food and cover for wildlife. Biologist like plant diversity and plant diversity comes from soil disturbance and rest for plant recovery.  In a grazing system wildlife are always the first grazers which provides the best nutrition.

Forage

  • Better persistence of forages– particularly of forages sensitive to continuous grazing. In general woody plants that goats prefer require a longer rest period (~45 days).
  • More weeds are consumed- some weeds are high quality
  • More uniform grazing, Improved utilization- Continuous grazing typically only utilizes approximately 30- 40% of standing forage whereas rotating approximately twice a week (rotate based on forage height) improves utilization to 60 – 70%.
  • Excess pasture growth harvested as hay- improves utilization even more
  • Higher production– Typically due to increased stubble height, more leaf area, and more moisture conservation production can be increased by 20% over continuous close grazing.
  • Better management– with proper fencing forages with different management needs are fenced facilitating improved management such as overseeding and treading in seed.

 

Environment

  • Reduced Runoff- Improved vegetative cover has 3 times less runoff than overgrazed pasture
  • Improved filtering of water– Increasing stubble height improves filtering of runoff.
  • Better distribution of dung and urine– improving the environment through proper placement.
  • Improved water quality– with proper fencing animals spend less time loafing in water areas and drink from selected and protected watering points. Bacteria, concentration of nutrients and soil erosion are all reduced when practicing rotational grazing.
  • Streambanks are more stable– Livestock enter streams less frequently (i.e. 5 paddocks system- animals are in one paddock only 20% of the time that’s a reduction of 80%). Treading followed by rest increases plant diversity – resting allows vegetation to establish or recover.  Grazing provides better plant diversity than total exclusion which long term results in only woody vegetation.
  • Soil loss- Overgrazed pasture can have soil loss of 9 tons relative to 1 ton for well managed pasture.