Fall Fencing

Published on Mon, 07/24/2023 - 11:07am

Fall Fencing.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

Pasture management plays an important role in providing an adequate place to graze cattle. Maintaining both the fencing and the pasture is crucial to a successful system. Good pasture management is a practice and a mindset that can be accomplished in a variety of different ways using a permanent fenceline, a temporary one, or a mixture of both.

Fencing not only allows cattlemen to practice a rotational system that provides forages time to rest and regrow, but to  divide groups of cattle for more uniform grazing and nutrition as well.

But just like everything else on the ranch, fences need to be maintained on a routine basis if they are going to work. As schedules die down and the weather gets cooler, fall is the ideal season to  build, update, and repair fences.

Preparing Your Fencing
A well established pasture fence not only significantly increases  grazing efficiency but it’s also a management tool in a grazing system.

Dr. Rocky Lemus of Mississippi State University notes that fencing needs vary among grazing management systems (along with types of livestock) in his bulletin Livestock Fencing Systems For Pasture Management.

There are vast resources for fencing and finding what is appropriate for the operation and herd. Doing research prior to upgrading or establishing a fence program can ensure you have what you need to get started when the time comes.

“Variable resources also play a major role in fencing decisions,” writes Lemus. “A combination of cool- and warm-season grasses, along with compatible legumes, can provide a good forage supply throughout the grazing season.”

Another consideration for fence choice is durability of the fence. Durability is largely impacted by region and climate. In some circumstances untreated wood posts are affordable and long-lasting. For others, more durable metal T-posts with plastic insulators and electricity are the way to go.

Keep in mind the location and accessibility of the pasture fence. Is it an eclectic system that needs an energy source? Or does it require wire that will need to be re-stretched every so often? How far will you need to lug materials, tools and equipment? What’s the budget? Are you concerned with keeping out predators? Questions like these should be considered  in advance.

The Considerations
Fencing configurations done properly can be beneficial for fall calving programs. For example, having a reliable fence in place and ready to go during fall calving helps ensure your forage is readily accessible and that there is a separate area with dry space for calves.

Additionally, within the pasture, the locations of water, shade, and handling facilities are critical.

Animals pastured in fall (especially when calving) also face the challenges of unpredictable weather. The shelter provided should provide both shade and windbreak within a reasonable distance.

Animal handling is another aspect. Easy access to the handling facilities enables  animals to be corralled for any random care that may need to be done. Lemus suggests  a lane with effective gate placement can help move animals within the fence line or to the handling facilities.

There are a variety of fences that can be used and some of the different fences work better in certain situations. For example, a temporary fence within an enclosed high-tensile fence makes it easier to change sections and potentially move cattle into a small pasture.

Large pastures split up into multiple paddocks makes it easier to move cattle without having to reel in a spool of tape fencing.

“Proper fencing is usually a major investment. Therefore, plan the fencing layout carefully to save time and money,” writes Lemus. “One of the benefits of a well-designed fencing system is that it can improve grazing efficiency. In continuous grazing, livestock tend to graze the most palatable plants first and leave mature plants until last. Forage selectivity by livestock often leads to concentrated and nonuniform manure distribution in the pasture.”

Having a good established fall grazing plan can help segway into winter. The approach can be similar, though not exact. Winter fencing bears the additional burden of withstanding the freezing elements due to freezing ground that can compromise posts or untreated wood. Keep in mind that, for electric fencing, snow also acts as an insulator and can impact the effectiveness of electric fences.

Pasture Management
An interior fence - either permanent or temporary - is key to good grazing and can expand rotation options that give pastures a rest period.

Pastures need time to recover and this period can vary based on the season, condition of the ground, and the weather. Even well tended pastures will undergo a sharp decrease in nutrient value as the year goes on. Having rest periods can alleviate some of this, but cannot prevent the overall reduced productivity.

For small pastures, temporary fences can be more economical. These setups allow for easier pasture reconfigurations to manage portions of the pasture.

Temporary fences can be beneficial in areas where cattle are grazed short term. In those grazing through the fall and into winter on cleared fields or on grass strips, a temporary fence is also beneficial so it is not  a burden to work around the rest  of the year.

Finding the fence system that works best for your herd, facility and location can help you become more successful and efficient at grazing the herd. Grazing cattle through fall and into winter can look different from an operation that moves cattle to a dry lot as cooler temps approach. Fence requirements may vary and options are limitless, so do your research to find the system that works for you.