June 17, 2014

A Shocking Lesson in Electric Fencing

Why use electric fence and concentrate animals in small pastures? The next two photos demonstrate why. The first shows some old, tough, woody forage that cattle don't like to eat. A lot of our pastures look like this.

 This second photo shows a pasture that has been improved by intensively grazing cattle in small areas and moving them often. A few things happen when you do this. The cattle have to eat what's in front of them. There is a lot of hoof action, which pushes new grass seeds into the soil, thus naturally replanting. Grazing actually stimulates growth in the grass and strengthens the root system. Stronger plants grow better, keeping weeds down. Rotational grazing reminds me of mowing the lawn. You mow, it grows back. You have to mow again and again. You graze it, and move, then come back again 30-40 days later and graze it again. You only want to take it about half way down. Any more than that and you have to wait longer before you hit it again. You get more out of your pasture doing this and can run more cattle. If left to graze the entire pasture, the cattle will eat the same grasses over and over, leaving the less desirable grasses to get tall and woody. Weeds also grow more prevalently because they are not getting trampled, but allowed to grow tall, seed out, and replant.
 We invested in a good solar powered electric fencer. We've used batteries before, but they run out quickly and your cattle may get out. They have to be kept charged, and then discarded when they will no longer hold a charge. This fencer works very well and keeps the fence super"hot". I know... by sad experience. We have a fence tester (not purposely me) that tells you how many volts are running through the line.
 These plastic posts are easier than pounding steel posts with insulators on them into the ground every time you rotate cattle. Just step on them. You can't see the peg going into the ground, but it's there.
 Place the wire in your slot of choice. There are different levels. We just use one wire at about 3 feet high.
 We have the wires set up on reels, which makes it easier to set up and take down. When you've got your wire strung out where you want it, and posts in place, you hang the reel on a steel post that has a piece of wire attached to keep it from slipping. You can then wind up the real and tighten as you like.
 Oops, a little too tight, I forgot this end was only attached to a regular plastic post. My cows are dying to get out and onto new grass! Oh, this is where I accidentally tested how hot the fence was. I took it off the plastic post and stuck it on the hot wire on the left. Uh ya, not thinking completely. Hey it was 90 degrees outside, 100% humidity and four kids riding around in the truck asking me if we were done yet. I start to lose my mind about then. It took about two hours to finish this, a lot longer than I'd expected. Somehow my tester has been misplaced so I had no way of knowing if my new fence was hot. I decided to test it myself and figured the elbow was the best limb to use. I got close to the fence, took a deep breath, talked to myself a little, and leaned in........ then I said out loud, "No, I already got shocked once today. Forget it! If they get out, they get out. But I am done sacrificing my body today!" Then I drove home, glad I took control and didn't let that electric fence own me!
 You can visually see the line where they've grazed and now where they're headed to new grass. My husband doesn't like it, but I just call, "Here girls, come on girls!" And they come running.
 It was nearly 5 o'clock when we got home to discover that our little bunny "Precious," had died. The kids were pretty sad, especially one little five year old that was in charge of her. Sad day. Glad my kids get to see and understand the circle of life though. So we had a funeral. Then I saved my clothes on the line that were getting sprinklered by a tractor sprinkler that had jumped the track.

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