Fencing & Water for Beef Cattle

Fencing & Water for Beef Cattle

Livestock tank
Basic grazing infrastructure for livestock includes fencing, water, and a method of controlling grazing activity. Photo credit Steve Niemeyer

The goal of any grazing operation is to introduce the cow or calf to forage in adequate quality and quantity for their needs.  A majority of cattle operations in Nebraska use pasture or native range for grazing during the growing season and crop residues or harvested purchased feed for the remainder of the year. Alternatives may include grazing cover crops in the production of traditional commodity crops, irrigation of grazed forages, and introduction of grasses into existing crop rotation and crop residues. 

Basic grazing infrastructure for livestock includes fencing, water, and a method of controlling grazing activity.   Development in fencing and water systems have greatly improved capabilities to manage cattle and forage for controlled grazing.

New technologies in electric fencing have made it easier to build and maintain fences.  Most important, modern fencing has become more reliable.

Temporary fences in Nebraska are used extensively in grazing crop residues in the fall and winter. 

When renting corn stalks, some factors to consider are:

  • Length of time for grazing
  • Stocking rate
  • Fences
  • Water availability
  • Amount of corn left in field


Questions to ask yourself before you make a decision to rent a piece of land to graze may include:

  • Is there an adequate and safe supply of water?
  • Will the forage meet the nutritional needs of the animals?
  • Does the water contain nitrates, bacteria, organic materials and odor or color that may cause animals to drink less than they should?
  • Are there any environmental hazards such as old batteries, oil cans, pesticides, and ice?

While temporary fencing offers convenience and low cost, it also has many disadvantages. For example, single wire is difficult for wildlife to see, and the posts are difficult to install and remove in frozen soils. Despite these limitations, temporary fence can be an asset as part of a whole grazing program. 

For more information: see EC3035, Fence and Water Development for Effective Grazing.


Interviews with the authors of BeefWatch newsletter articles become available throughout the month of publication and are accessible at https://go.unl.edu/podcast.