Infrastructure for Integrating Grazing into Cropping Systems

Many benefits can come with integrating cropping and grazing, but some thought up front can increase success. There are five crucial infrastructure considerations: fencing, water, animal handling, shade, and wind protection. Below are some highlights, and you can learn more in this factsheet.

cover of fact sheet showing grazing cattle

Permanent fence is a serious capital investment and incurs significant cost. However, it provides security that a temporary fence made from polywire cannot provide. Livestock owners wanting to integrate livestock into a cropping system need to consider such factors as how many years they will be able to use the fields for grazing, proximity to roadways and other properties, and what class of livestock is being grazed.

The livestock owner who plans to integrate livestock into a cropping system will need to consider how water will be supplied and distributed within the grazing area. Is there a water source nearby that can be tapped into or will water need to be hauled to the site? Once the supply is determined, there are many ways to distribute the water across the fields being grazed.

Livestock owners should consider how livestock will be gathered and handled either for veterinary purposes or for loading to move from the property.

One often overlooked aspect of grazing fields that are also used as part of a cropping system is shade for the livestock. Pennsylvania summers usually have stretches of hot, humid weather that is uncomfortable for livestock that are grazed. Animals grazing in hot weather eagerly seek shade. Many grazing farms allow livestock to have access to buildings, fencerows, or woods for shade. Some operations may use portable shade units that can be moved along with the animals in a rotational grazing system.

In some situations, livestock will be grazing fields and be directly exposed to winter wind. Livestock can tolerate very cold temperatures; however, wind exposure during cold, wet weather can cause stress as the animals lose the insulating properties of their haircoat or wool due to saturation.