After years of various grazing research at Missouri's Forage System's Research Center near Linneus, Mo., forage specialist Jim Gerrish has learned a thing or two about using movable electric fencing to optimize grazing. Keep in mind these five tips when planning your grazing strategy.

  • Keep livestock within 800 feet of water. Studies have shown that 77 percent of rangeland grazing is done within a quarter-mile of water. Therefore it may be more cost effective to pipe water to cows than make them walk to water. Cattle with access to water in every paddock of management intensive grazing system drank 15 percent more water daily compared to cattle that used alleyway access to water.
  • Keep paddocks " more nearly square," says Mr. Gerrish. Obviously not all landscapes allow for extreme geometry, but grazing distribution is increased when paddocks are about as wide as they are long.
  • However, you must also follow the contour lines of the landscape for boundaries. Be aware of how contour affects soil drainage, the slope of the pasture and the plant community.
  • Make paddocks of similar grazing capacity, not similar size. A paddock with a natural drainage will produce more grass than one up the hill so size accordingly to prevent a roller-coaster diet.
  • If possible, plan alleyways for moving cows only. It is best to keep trucks and machinery out of alleyways because they cause trails to form. Trails with no ground cover cause excess run off and loss of nutrients that are displaced there by cows moving to water.