Thursday, 21 June 2018 11:21

Improving livestock distribution on pasture

Written by  Trevor Lennox
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Many producers could improve the health of their range and pastureland by improving livestock distribution. Livestock distribution refers to the dispersion of grazing animals over an entire pasture.


Ideal grazing distribution, while often impractical, occurs when proper utilization extends uniformly over the entire pasture. Livestock unfortunately, often prefer to graze in the same area day after day, season after season.
This repeated over-use of key grazing areas leads to deterioration of these areas, while other areas within the pasture may hardly be grazed at all.
What are some common tools used to improve livestock distribution across a ranch?
Water availability:
Water is by far the most important distribution tool used on livestock operations. Livestock need water and as a result will spend the majority of their time near it. The loitering of cattle in wetland areas can be a challenge.
It is desirable to develop new water sources in areas that are underutilized.
Numerous techniques can be used to develop alternative water sources such as installing solar or conventional pumps; developing springs, seeps or wells; and piping water to troughs to improve livestock distribution.
Fencing:
A cross-fence that is well thought out and situated properly can help considerably in improving livestock distribution. Ideally fences should be used to separate forage types.
For example, a tame pasture should be fenced separately from native grassland, and sometimes it may be desirable to fence riparian areas separately from upland pastures.
Supplements:
Salt, mineral, and protein supplements are useful tools that can aid in distributing livestock, by encouraging them to move into areas that they don’t normally use much. These supplements should be placed away from water sources, therefore helping move cattle into areas they don’t normally use as much.
Other supplements that can aid distribution include hay, grain, molasses, etc.
Herding:
Herding is another method that can be used to improve distribution and facilitate uniform utilization throughout the pasture.
The only downfall of this tool is that it is labour intensive and in most cases requires daily riding and herding.
Herding combined with other tools such as strategic supplementation (i.e. salt, mineral or protein supplement) can decrease labour costs and can be more effective than herding alone.
Livestock Class:
In general, cow-calf pairs tend to be the most difficult livestock class to distribute as they tend to spend a large portion of their time near riparian areas loafing and foraging. Yearlings and non-lactating cows however, often distribute themselves more widely throughout a pasture.
 Trevor Lennox is the Range Management Extension Specialist for Saskatchewan Agriculture in Swift Current

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