Lightning is an unavoidable threat to livestock, farms, and ranches. Since most farm operations are located in areas where there are ample pasture land and plenty of open space, farm buildings and fences can often attract lightning during stormy weather. Since this electricity follows the path of least resistance from the sky to the ground, it is […]
When left to their own devices, livestock can be picky eaters, Dr. David Fernandez, Extension livestock specialist and interim assistant dean of academic programs for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, said. Animals allowed to graze freely over an entire pasture will often repeatedly graze the […]
Electric fencing is fine. It makes it possible to be more flexible and versatile with our management and I recommend it without reservation. As one of the ads by one of the companies that sell power fencing products states, it will maximize grazing and increase profits, and without question, that’s what all of us who
use or plan to use electric fences are hoping to do. But, as with most things that we do there is a process, a step-by-step method, that makes all of this work as it should work.
Electric Fences Require Us To Work With Animal Psychology
Now we all can recognize that a 4 or 5 strand hard wire electric fence with proper post spacing is without question a physical barrier. But what about that one strand of poly wire that will divide the pasture on a temporary basis and is moved periodically? Cattle can push it down, run thru it or jump over it. Sheep and goats can push against it and go under it or over it as well. (Now I’m guessing here about the sheep and goats I really don’t know about them.)
I have never attended a pasture walk or workshop that included fencing instruction that did not emphasize the fact that electric fencing, especially poly-wire, is a psychological barrier not a physical one. Yet, the mistake I have seen some folks make, and they pay for it over and over again, is simply failing to train the livestock to respect the electric fence. Their animals don’t understand the idea of a psychological barrier. This can lead to frustration, wasted time, and in some cases a complete collapse of the whole operation.
So Start With Training
Here’s how we have trained hundreds of stocker calves to the electric fence and I have been told that this works for sheep and goats as well. These are sale barn calves not home raised calves so it is fair to say that some of them have not been treated very well. The calves are unloaded into a catch pen with water and hay and are kept there for 24 hours.
The day that they are turned out of these pens they are released into what we call a trap. This is a gathering pen that funnels into the working pens. The calves are not driven out of the pens that they have spent the last 24 hours in. We just open the gate, walk away, and leave the calves on their own.
The trap has two rolls of hay, one at each end, and a water trough at the end farthest from the gate leaving the catch pen. We run a single poly wire across the trap, except for an opening on one side about 15 feet wide. Animals must be travel through this gap to get from one end of the trap to the other and with the water trough only on one end it becomes necessary to make this trip. The rolls of hay are placed close to the hard wire perimeter to cut down on fence walking.
On commercial and hobby farms, fences tend to serve a very important function. They are used to protect and confine animals while also protecting crop areas. There are many types of fences out there for your small farm, and making a smart decision will depend on the purpose the fence is supposed to serve. I […]
Perimeter fencing is an important part of a rotational grazing system, and if, like a high tensile fence it’s also electrified, it makes it easier to set up paddocks and move livestock.
Over the six years, I’ve been raising cattle, I have built 33,000 feet of perimeter high-tensile electric fence, all by hand, with minimal equipment and my Dad’s help. I work on leased land, so I need a fence that’s easy to put up and take down. In my lease contracts, I explain that the fence belongs to me. If the landowners do not want to buy the fence (for the replacement cost of the materials), when the lease ends, I remove the fence and take it with me.
I far prefer fiberglass fence posts over wood or metal posts for the electric fence. Fiberglass does not require insulators because it’s non-conductive. That means no broken insulators to fix and no shorts due to the wire contacting the post. Fiberglass does not rot or rust over time. Finally, I really like the clean, attractive look of white fiberglass posts. I buy line posts coated and drilled from Kencove.
My preferred posts for perimeter fence are 1”-1.25” solid fiberglass. I have built whole fences with these posts, but they require more effort to hand-drive than a 7/8” post. I feel that the 7/8” posts are too flimsy to use for a whole perimeter. My most recent fence used 7/8” posts with every fourth post a 1.25” one, to add stability. Alternating the smaller posts with the larger ones saves money.
I use 7/8” posts only on straight stretches only. When I want to create a curved fence line, I use 1” or preferably 1.25” solid posts because they won’t bend with the strain. If I have a sharp bend to make in a fence line, I use a big corner post. For added stability, I add a floating brace on the big post, pushing the post against the greatest strain. I would love to use 3” or bigger fiberglass (foam-filled or solid) posts for corners and bends, but I don’t have a local source for them or a way to get them economically shipped to me. Therefore, I use wood for these purposes.
Dr. Matt Poore also contributed to this article. The tools to improve productivity that we have at our disposal are quite astonishing. Computers that allow us to analyze our operations, equipment used to plant/harvest crops to produce feed, and the genetic predictions used to select better livestock are just a few examples of tools that
have changed livestock production. As managers, we must determine which tools to incorporate into our farms and some will prove to be useful while others will be discarded.
In grassland agriculture, temporary electric fence has changed everything for us. Reels, poly-wire and tread-in posts coupled with a good energizer allow us to more actively manage our pastures. But, as with most technology, getting started can be a challenge. It helps to know that even the most advanced graziers started with a single strand (or 2-3 strands for small ruminants) subdividing one permanent pasture at the water source. From there, all improvements in your grazing management journey depend on “the power of one wire”.
So, what benefits does adaptive grazing management – using smaller paddocks and more frequent movement – have on the system? We know that when we only graze for a few days and then rest the grass for a long period the grass stand is healthier and produces more total forage. Furthermore, this approach alters the grazing behavior of the livestock making them less selective and improves the amount of grass consumed rather than wasted. These and other benefits are well documented, and it is all because of the effective use of temporary electric fence. But, many producers do not fully realize the numerous advantages of using this technology.
So, what are some of the benefits you can expect if you adopt temporary fencing?
Better Animal Health
First, using temporary electric fence gives you the opportunity to observe your livestock as they move to new grass. Cattle producers can use this time to check body condition, udders, feet and leg soundness and fly populations. What about that cow that is moving slowly? You can clearly observe how she walks and determines if she needs treatment for foot rot or needs to be added to the cull list due to age or some other unsoundness. Most all of these items fall into the Beef Quality Assurance programs and will allow producers to effectively monitor their herds and provide for their welfare. Moving cattle more frequently also improves their disposition and makes them easier to handle. Just moving them one to two times weekly can make a big impact as they will learn you most often are there to give them better grass, and they become accustomed to being near you and walking by you without being afraid.