Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shepherdess Notes: Electric Fencing



I was driving down the road and got quite a surprise when I looked over and seen part of our fence buried under snow drifts. This is is the first time that has ever happened.  This winter has been full of "first times". 

Fencing is important when you raise sheep. (and other livestock) The best piece of advice that we got when we moved out to the farm and were looking at purchasing our first livestock, was to make the investment in a good fence.  I have never regretted following that advice. 

We chose to put up a 6 strand, hi-tensile, electric fence. After some research, we found it was cheaper to buy the supplies from a wholesale fence dealer and have them install it than it was for us to buy the supplies at a local farm store and install it ourselves.  17 acres fenced off in one day and we didn't have to lift a finger! Good deal!

When electric fencing works it is great, when it doesn't-it is a pain! Being a mental barrier more than a physical one, it has to work well. The most important aspect of installing an electric fence, especially when you are trying to hold back woolly sheep, is invest in a very strong fence charger and put in adequate ground rods (minimum of 3).

As with anything there are pros and cons of having an electric fence. 

Over the years, our biggest problem is when we have a power outage.
When we lose power, we have no fence! 
Thankfully, the sheep have never tested the fence during an outage, but I always worry about predators the whole time it is off.
We are working on a back up plan to keep the fence charged during power outages.

Another problem is grass, weeds, and brush growing up around the fence and that draws power, making the fence less effective. Once a year, we have to spray herbicide along the fence rows, in the Spring, to keep the vegetation down.

On occasion, we will have an animal (lets be honest, a goat ) that will decide the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and will tolerate the shock to get there. That does not happen very often, but when it does it causes problems! I have had to sell a few of my best goats because they would just not respect the fence and wreaked havoc on our fruit trees and plants, and believe me, it doesn't take long for them to cause quite a big of damage.

I think electric fencing is a great choice  to cover a large area of pasture. Woven wire fencing is nice but the cost is about 4 times the cost of the hi-tensile. It is also not as forgiving when trees and large branches fall on it. With the woven wire you would most likely have to put hot wire on the inside to keep goats from climbing on it,  animals from rubbing against it and dogs digging underneath it.

Another type of fencing we have used is Electric Netting, which is a portable electric fence. It works great for dividing up the pastures. It typically comes in 150 foot sections and has many different uses around the farm. This was the first type of fencing we used on the farm. Before our permanent fence was put in, we used the portable fence to let our sheep graze during the day (we had 4).  We  put them up in the barn at night.

I should mention that we have six strands (4 ft. tall) because that is what is recommended for sheep and goats.

Whatever type of fence you choose, I think it is one of the most important investments of the farm. It keeps everyone where they belong, which makes for happy sheep and a happy shepherd!

Best Gates?  Well, we are working on that...

Only a Goat.....


13 comments:

  1. I hope you are able to get the fence fixed before too long. The goat in that last photo has herself in quite a predicament! I don't know whether to giggle or sympathize. I'm sure she got out okay, but I wonder how.

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    1. Sue, Delilah is my escape artist. She can squeeze through just about anything. She did ger herself in a bind, this one time. I wish I could say she learned her lesson!

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  2. Oh now this post makes me smile but shiver thinking of all the times a fence has made or ruined my day depending if it is lying down or standing tall. We have never used electric we tend to use split rail. They would not work for your sheep or goats but works well for cattle. Good luck getting it back up and running. Hug B

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    Replies
    1. I love your fence, but you are right it would not work here. I can see the goats climbing all over it :)

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  3. Love the goat photo----yep, only a goat! Ha ha ha!

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  4. I love the goat photo-I bet she keeps you on your toes!

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  5. Our horses have gotten out before when the electric fence was down in a snowstorm. Chasing horses down the road in a blizzard wasn't so fun...

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    1. Lisa, it is NOT fun chasing after animals that have managed to escape.

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  6. This is good advice! We are trying to figure out our fencing for goats right now. We can hopefully get some later this year, but we are going to set up the fence beforehand. We are planning on using electric so I will have my husband read your post as well since he will be the one installing it haha. It's great that you didn't have to install yours!

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  7. Great post!! I've never heard of the electric netting, that's interesting. We also have the 6 strand high tinsel wiring around our bigger pastures and it's pretty easy to maintain for the most part, but like you said, weeds need to be sprayed/cleared back on a regular basis if it's kept hot, which ours isn't right now. Our wire fence those sprocket metal tensioners every 100 feet or so and when the elk come through or a branch falls, some how it just loosens the sprockets and all I have to do is tighten the fence back up. Voila!

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  8. Interesting. I didn't know an elec fence (or two) would work on sheep.

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    Replies
    1. We have been using one for 15 years.
      Just have to have a stronger charger and more stands than with other livestock.

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  9. Goats are so naughty, you just have to love them! I love the scarf and am hoping to get a few more pair of socks done before spring!

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