Cell grazing frees space

Cell grazing frees space


Sheep
South Australian farmer Jeff Baldock, Kimba, found there were plenty of benefits to cell grazing.

South Australian farmer Jeff Baldock, Kimba, found there were plenty of benefits to cell grazing.

Aa

GETTING sheep to graze the full extent of a large paddock can be difficult.

Aa

GETTING sheep to graze the full extent of a large paddock can be difficult.

No matter how green the grass, the animals often hog watering points and shade, favouring small areas.

This was the scenario for Kimba, SA, mixed farmer Jeff Baldock, when he decided to try cell grazing on a 120-hectare paddock two years ago.

"It was the same old problem," he said.

"The bigger the paddock, the less food you actually get to use.

"So we decided to make better use of our pastures."

Mr Baldock runs a 4400ha farm with wife Jenny and sons Andrew and Mark.

They have about 1500 Merino ewes, Merino-White Suffolk-Texel lambs, and crop wheat, barley, oats, canola, lupins and peas.

But the big paddock was not being fully used by the sheep.

A temporary Cyclone fence was run through the paddock on occasion to try to get sheep onto other areas of it.

But after seeing the good results of electrified cell grazing on some friends' farms, Mr Baldock decided to "give it a crack".

He split the rectangular paddock pattern into four cell strips, with two of those cells each split horizontally into two further sections.

Segregation was made with solar-powered Turbo-Braid wires, rolled-out and hooked onto plastic step-in posts.

A deep-cycle battery keeps the fence live at night.

"We decided to use the smaller cells to get the sheep trained," Mr Baldock said.

"For those cells we used three wires. Once the sheep knew the electric fence was there, they tended not to go near it too much, so we would take one of the wires out and use it to make more pens and paddocks.

"The main thing, however, is to use a three-wire for a start, because if you've got jumpy lambs or something, they'll sneak out and go for it until they've been zapped, or their friends have been zapped."

The Baldocks also use portable panels at the end of each wire so that each cell had its own gate, making it easier to shift sheep through the different paddocks without having to unhook wires.

"You've got to have easy access," he said.

"If you get half a dozen lambs that get out, you can't get them back in where the fence is.

"But with solid gates they see a gap there and go back to their mates that way."

Mr Baldock says it takes about two days to train the sheep.

But one of the bigger issues he had to overcome was creating watering points for the different grazing cells.

Luckily, the paddock's trough was not quite at the end of the paddock and was positioned where it could provide water for two cells simultaneously.

"Then we had to decide to either run a pipeline from there in order to water the other sections further away," he said.

"We ended up putting some shuttles on top of a four-wheel trailer and hooked that up to a portable trough and shifted it to wherever it needed to be.

"It was done during spring so they weren't using a lot of water, but it was good to have it there when needed," he said.

The paddock of medic had been sown to canola the previous year, providing a strong feed base, with a further 300 lambs used to help graze it all.

"On a 120ha paddock we had up to 1500 sheep grazing for a couple of months," Mr Baldock said.

"We'd leave them there until they'd trimmed it down enough, then we'd move them on to the next, probably every three weeks, with three mobs of sheep going at the same time."

He says the technique prevents the land being degraded from heavy use in certain areas.

Mr Baldock has just prepared 20ha of saltbush with a similar set-up so he can pen sheep elsewhere when a paddock needs a break.

"One thing we do have to work on is how we are winding-in the fences," he said.

"We're actually winding them by hand with a tool we've made up to go on the back of a ute, and the easier that becomes the more likely it is we'll shift the fences and put them up again.

"I would absolutely recommend this to people but the main thing is to use the three wire for a start and to incorporate gates."

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