Master grazier Greg Judy explains how to lease land for cattle, how to move the cows every day to improve productivity.
Folks asked me to do a video showing what it looks like as I’m getting ready to turn cows out this Spring. So here’s a video from April 4.
In this 3:30 video, we visit the fence I built in 1999 that is still functioning as sheep pasture. It uses 4 strands of high-tensile, 12 gauge, 180,000 psi wire set at 7, 13, 19, and 30 inches so that it can keep in goats, sheep and guardian dogs. Our posts are 4 foot high, 5/8″ fiberglass posts spaced at 25 feet. Our corners don’t have braces. Instead, we pounded our long posts deeper into the ground so they have the leverage to hold the fence tight. You’ll also see the sheep grazing seedheads off fescue, bluegrass, and orchardgrass, encouraging the grasses to put out new leaves.
You’ll also want good gates, so this second 5:06 video shows how we avoid expensive metal gates and install something economical and sure to keep in sheep, goats and guardian dogs. (I apologize for the windy day that affected the sound.)
I gave up using poly tape and switched to this quarter-inch rope from Powerflex. With 22 steel filaments, it’s a lot stronger than poly tape and doesn’t catch in the wind. On one end the gate Powerflex rope is attached to the electrified high-tensile fence, and on the other to a fiberglass post. In the video I show how I drill a hole through the fiberglass post, string the rope through and then use a slip knot to attach it there so that I can tighten it easily as necessary.
This is my second summer buying, breeding and flipping yearling heifers in New York. I use two-day moves and high density grazing to get good animal performance and pasture utilization.
My success of depends on my herd respecting a single electric wire. To make sure they have that respect, I’ve made some adjustments to my fencing. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Choose Heifers Trained to a Single-Wire
Most of the heifers I buy are already trained to a single polywire upon arrival at my farm. This prevents most containment issues before they happen. The best yearlings for a single-wire grazing program are ones born in a single-wire cowherd. Don’t set yourself up for escapes by buying cattle that have never seen a single wire before. I did buy a group this year that were raised on a three-wire perimeter only, but their extremely docile temperament made me confident that they would train well.
Acclimate New Animals to the Herd and the Fence
I don’t recommend delivering new arrivals into polywire, unless they are unloaded directly into an existing trained herd. Even then, it is probably better to put them in a hard-sided corral for a day or two, until they get over the trucking stress and acclimate to their new home. Keeping them isolated from your other cattle for a few days also allows you to detect and treat potential health problems. If your cattle are not already trained to electric fence, this is a good time to introduce them. (Check out Don Ashford’s technique here.)
I turn out from my corral into a 2-strand offset paddock, that looks like this.
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.