Fencing

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This week we moved the smaller feeders out into a fresh pasture.  That brought to mind an important topic for anyone considering adding livestock to their repertoire.  One of the most crucial factors to the success of raising animals of any sort is having the appropriate fencing.  We say this from hard experience.  In the range of difficulty, goats are by far the most difficult to fence, with cows and horses being about the easiest.

Because we use our pastures for multiple species, we’ve invested in a woven wire perimeter fence and then use electric to protect the fence and subdivide the fields as needed.  Electricity is the essential ingredient for all fencing.  You can fence just with electric, but we’ve found that the combination is a good guarantee of positive neighborly relationships.  Here is how the pig fence is set up:

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The standoff electric fence is about 6-8 inches off the ground–right about where the pig’s nose snuffles along.  We make a point of “electric fence training” them before they go out into a bigger field.  You can subdivide a field using the wire at about 6-8 inches and another at about 14-18 inches.  We’ve used various types of posts and insulators over the years.  We came into some fiberglass pipe recently and it works really nicely for electric wire.  Pigs have a great respect for electric fence, but are contiually checking it and will sometimes figure out that they can run through it.  That’s why we use a woven wire fence to back up the electric.  Note the yellow insulator up high.  When we have cows in this pasture we can run a wire at the top to keep them from leaning over the fence.

The key to a good system is a good fencer.  Plug in fencers are great.  They are powerful and reliable.  We use several of them near the barn.  Solar fencers give you the flexibility of containing and moving your animals anywhere you need them.  You don’t have to buy the most expensive fencer, but don’t buy the cheapest either.  A good quality fencer that is more than adequate for the space you’re electrifying is a worthwhile investment.  This fencer has an insulated “hot” wire running to the electric fence and is grounded on the woven wire fence.  Be sure that your fence is grounded well.  We’ve chased animals back in (especially goats) more than once only to discover the sand around the grounding rod was bone dry and not working as advertised.

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This is one example of an easy way to pasture birds.  Turkeys, hens, ducks, geese don’t like the confinement of a “chicken tractor.”  They need to roam, but can do a lot of damage to gardens and flowerbeds if they can wander anywhere they like.  The feathernet fencing keeps the birds in and predators out.  It can be electrified, which is a very satisfying way to convince racoons to leave your hens alone.  You just need two fences: one in use, the other set up around the next section of grass so that you just shoo the birds into the next net, close it up, and leapfrog the first net to the next section of grass.

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Then, there are always the ones that won’t cooperate and find the alfalfa is higher on the other side of the fence.  However, our sheep doesn’t stray far from her herd mates, the dairy cows, who are on the right side of the fence.  Plus, since we have the whole pasture woven wire fenced, she won’t be eating the neighbor’s daffodils.  This fence does work really well on the cows and horse.  A single strand of electric fence on a step post contains the animals and is easy to move using the same leapfrog method as with the feathernet.  With the dairy cows, someone goes out to move the fence and open up new pasture while the cows are up at the barn to get milked.

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Being able to put your animals on grass is the key to utilizing your resources to the maximum.  Weeds become feed, which in turn yields to you the most nutritious food possible, whether it’s eggs or steak.

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