John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Pasture and Paddock Design

Pasture Layout encouraging efficient grazing and herd management deserves a good deal of planning. Fences are expensive, and are generally not easily moved! Rotation should be included in the planning to maximize natural forage production.

Paddock Design, Pature Rotation and Herd Management

Every piece of land will create its own demands when it comes to laying out one's pastures. Variables may include:

  • Terrain - Hilly land will influence fenclines and paddock design more than flat land. Creeks, wetlands and such will also effect the layout.
  • Vegetation - Existing woodlands, brush, etc. may effect one's plans
  • Climate - Demands for herd management, as well as grazing loads that a particular piece of pasture can sustain, will be effected by climate. Keep in mind that this might include the micro-climate of a particular locale, e.g. low lying land tends to collect and hold cold air.
  • Fertility - Soil fertility will effect the production of forage. This can be helped with amendments (fertilizers, lime, etc.), but this can be an expensive course to follow.
  • Irrigation - Being able to irrigate will extend the forage production season in most locations. Ten acres of irrigated land might easily support two to three times the livestock of 40 acres of dry land.

Pasture Layout Plan

We are fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest with its abundant rainfall and fertile soils. We are also fortunate to have ten acres under irrigation, and our land is flat to gently sloping. This made laying out our pastures a much easier task than might have been the case on another parcel of land.

The diagram above shows how we decided to lay out one part of our pastures. This 2 1/3 acre plot should support 20 head of alpaca with minimal supplemental feed needs.

Note that there are four paddocks joined by a single lane. This allows pasture rotation through the growing season (in our area, with irrigation, March - September). The 20 foot wide lane joining the paddocks is large enough to allow passage of equipment and vehicles. It holds a 10X24 loafing shed, which is adequate shelter in our climate, and, it serves as a sacrifice area during winter months when the main paddocks need to recover from the years grazing.

By carefully laying out the gates we have created an area where it is relatively easy to move the herd from one area to another. The joining lane can easily be converted into a catch pen in front of each of the individual paddocks.

While this particlar pasture layout will not be suitable for all land, it serves to illustrate the principals that should be used whenever one designs their pastures.

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"...a look of fatigue in Rose's face, the brilliancy of her eyes, the emaciation of the body beneath her grey alpaca dress, and that air of false serenity masking hysteric excitement which she seemed to have noticed..."

Arnold Bennett
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