Establishing a Basic Pasture
We all know that ranching means more than buying a cow and putting it in the yard next
to the dog kennel and the pool.
In fact, one basic to the small cattle ranching business is the development of the
It is important to note that not all breeds and uses are fit for pasturing, so be
acutely in tune with what you plan to do with the cattle in the long run, where they are in their growth cycle and
what their specific needs are.
If pasture is your method, most smaller-scale cattle operations will rise and fall
on developments and/or improvements made to land and pastures. These improvements or developments require varying
amounts of time, depending upon the condition of the land to be used and what’s available.
It is generally recommended to have between 1 ½ to 2-1/2 acres per cow-calf unit with
adequate irrigation. This will vary based on rainfall amounts, soil, fertilizer, type of grass, and supplemental
feed, if any. In drier climates, more acreage is needed per animal. Ask local farmers, your local extension or
other area resources what and where the best local conditions may be.
Of course, there are several factors to consider when planning your pasture.
o Land area available
o Productivity of the soils
o Kinds of livestock that will utilize the forage
o Intensity of the operation.
Cattle need some form of sturdy, three-sided shelter as well. Many experienced ranchers
stress the shelter should not be airtight and instead have one open wall, as cattle give off a lot of moisture and
this can lead to numerous health problems.
As expected, a sturdy fence is necessary to keep the cattle in and other things out. Most
ranchers would recommend a stout post fence with woven wire for standard fencing, with a strand of barbed wire
along the bottom and top. The barbed wire prevents the curious cattle from stretching too far outside the realm of
the fence to eat nearby foliage or bite the hand of a curious neighborhood child.
You also need to plan for a corral or dry lot to keep the animals in when irrigating, when
the pasture needs a rest from grazing, or you need to work the cow.
Fringe Economic Benefits
On pasture, cattle spread their own manure as a natural fertilizer, this is not
only beneficial to the environment, but cut costs as well. Pastures also are inherently healthier for the
cattle and the people who eat their meat. Grass diets produce leaner beef and a higher proportion of "good"
fats. Recent diet trends show more and more consumers are willing to pay slightly higher prices for beef considered
environmentally friendly, such as that raised on pasture systems. Pasture systems also are easier to maintain,
thereby costing the rancher less in the long-run.
First and foremost
Always check with your local town government to ensure your land or the land you plan to
pasture is zoned to allow for animals and agricultural uses. While any land that produces good crops, abundant
grasses and has good soil quality is suitable for pasture production, the other residents may not always appreciate
their new neighbors.