This spring, brothers Karol and Peter McCaughan decided to split up 10ac on a 27ac out-farm into a more defined paddock grazing system.
The out-farm lies nine miles from the home yard and is a consolidated land block with relatively good soils for growing grass.
The other 17ac on the block is used to grow silage, but does come into the grazing platform later in the season once enough fodder has been saved for winter feeding.
The land block is well fenced, with stockproof wire around the boundaries and some internal divisions permitting secure grazing and closing off grass for silage.
In recent years, Karol and Peter have been rotating cattle and sheep around the fields to try and make better use of grass. However, the grazing fields were just too big and grass was not being fully utilised.
Given the rise in fertiliser costs, the decision was taken this spring to split part of the grazing block into smaller, more manageable grass allocations.
The 10ac selected was the most straightforward option to start with and has been split into four separate grazing areas.
Three paddocks are around 1ha in size, with the remaining area measuring around 1.4ha. Paddocks are all side by side, which simplifies the movement of stock to fresh grass.
Rather than opt for a permanent fencing set-up, Karol and Peter have gone for a more flexible approach and installed plastic posts and electric wire on reels.
In total, 50 posts were purchased at a cost of £50 (€60). Three geared reels of electric wire, plus a mixture of handles and insulators, were also purchased. All equipment came to a combined cost of £260 (€309).
A battery fencer is used to power the fences and was already on-farm. However, a second battery fencer may be purchased to provide a back fence if necessary.
Each wire reel is used for one internal division. The wire is wound back and forward to provide four strands of electric on each temporary fence.
This is a much cheaper option than running four separate reels on each dividing fence. Also, the span width across the field is not excessive and one reel is more than adequate.
Water provision is always a huge problem when setting up grazing paddocks. Without mains water, Karol and Peter are making good use of a mobile water unit.
Two IBC cubes sit on a trailer and have a small drinking trough attached. The trough is plumbed with an internal ballcock that regulates water flow.
Sheep have been filtering out to grass on the block after lambing back in April. But on 14 May, stock numbers were increased and the first proper rotation got underway, with each paddock lasting around one week at present. The 10ac is currently carrying 130 ewes with twin lambs, plus 12 suckler cows and calves. Grass has so far received one bag per acre of CAN back in early April.
Grass growth has exploded in the past week and stock are struggling to keep on top of covers. The first paddock has been grazed with excellent clean out, despite conditions being extremely wet in recent days.
Although it is only getting up and going, Karol and Peter are already seeing the benefits of splitting the 10ac into four paddocks. Last year, there would have been a lot of wasted grass when growth rates surged ahead of grazing demand. However, with the paddocks preventing swards ahead of stock being spoiled, there are plans to take out surplus grass as silage next week along with the other 17ac.
Silage will be ready to cut after 25 May, four weeks earlier than last year, in order to improve fodder quality and reduce the reliance on concentrate.
Depending on ground conditions and growth rates, the next step for the McCaughan brothers is to split each of the four paddocks in two over the summer. This would leave eight divisions, allowing for more frequent moves to fresh grass and further improve utilisation.