Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Master Grazer Coordinator
804 W.P. Garrigus Building
University of Kentucky
Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
Rotational grazing systems are based on having multiple paddocks and strategically moving livestock to allow the forages in each paddock a sufficient rest and regrowth period. Paddocks can be set up or divided efficiently using temporary electric fence. Electric fencing is a psychological barrier rather than a physical barrier. Livestock are trained to respect the fence, so it is vital that all components of the circuit are working correctly in order for the fence to be effective.
It is best to plan and draw out the system before purchasing the necessary materials. In the diagram, include the location of the power supply, direction of power flow, gateways, and cutout switches. It is also beneficial include in the drawing plans for the watering system because livestock will need access to water in all pastures.
The three components to an electric fencing system are the energizer, grounding system, and the fence material. There are many different energizers that vary in power, price, and type. Energizers differ in voltage and joule power. These numbers affect the length of fence and number of strands that can be properly powered and the type of animal that can be contained by the fence. Energizers are powered by battery, solar energy, or can be plugged into a power outlet.
The grounding system is vital to create a functioning circuit. This system makes up half of the circuit so it is important that it be as conductive as possible. It is suggested that a minimum of three galvanized grounding rods be used. These rods should be six feet or longer and should be placed at least ten feet apart. Connect the rods using a galvanized 12.5 wire. Placing the grounding rods in moist soil is ideal. Because an adequate grounding system is critical for an electric fencing system, it is important that no short-cuts are taken when implementing this part of the system.
Many different options exist when it comes to the fencing component of the system.
The fencing needs to be determined by the type of livestock. If trained to electric fence, cattle can usually be kept in using a simple, one strand fence at nose level or about 30 inches high. Using a two strand fence can be useful in a cow-calf scenario in order to keep calves in with their dams. If two strands are used, the top strand should be approximately 36 inches above the ground and the second at 18 inches. Small ruminants, sheep and goats, usually require five stranded fence. It is advised that the lowest strand be 6 inches off the ground, the second at 12 inches, the third at 18 inches, the fourth at 28 inches, and the top strand at 38 inches. Poly tape, poly wire, or poly braids are options for wire. Electric netting is another option for smaller livestock. A reel makes for easy setup, take down, and transport. Lastly, portable fence posts are needed. There are many different options for fencepost types. Pigtail posts are easy to use in a one-wire system. Treadin posts have numerous lugs to secure poly wire. Multiple strands can be used and can be placed at varying heights. Posts should be 30 to 90 feet apart. Insulated gate handles allow for easy animal movement. The placement of gates should maximize ease of livestock movement. Using UV stabilized plastics is best to protect from sun damage and deterioration. Lightning diverters and surge protectors can protect fencing systems and the money that goes into them.
Many different options exist for one to consider when setting up a fencing system. The species needing to be contained, size of the area, and resources help determine which materials are best suited for your operation. Because electric fence is a psychological barrier, it is vital that the circuit is functioning at all times. Avoiding shortcuts and dedicating time for regular inspection and maintenance will keep the fence in good, working condition.