Temporary electric fencing can increase pasture usage, save money

Carol Sanders | UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

ElectricFencingPINE BLUFF, Ark. – Temporary electric fencing is one way to increase pasture usage and save money on feed and weed and brush control, says Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Animals allowed to graze over the entire pasture consume about one-third of the available forage. They repeatedly graze the most palatable plants, killing them while ignoring other nutritious less palatable forages.

“Rotational grazing increases forage consumption to about two-thirds of available forage and forces the animals to consume the less palatable forages,” says Dr. Fernandez. Heavier stocking density helps control weeds and brush through trampling. And, moving animals from one paddock to another is easy. They quickly learn that moving to a new paddock means fresh, nutritious, palatable graze. They will be waiting at the gate when you are ready to move them, he says.

Temporary electric fencing helps manage grazing without a significant financial investment. Because the fence is easy to install and move, the shape and size of the pasture can be changed to force livestock to use all of the grass and trample the undesirable plants and weeds, says Dr. Fernandez.

Only a few supplies are needed for a temporary electric fence – step-in posts, polywire and a power source. Step-in posts have a sharpened end that goes into the ground and usually a place to for your foot so you can step it into the ground. Polywire is thin, braided rope with wire braided in with the rope. It carries the charge and keeps the animals in.

The power source can be a plug-in charger if wire can be run to where the fence will be. Or, select a solar charger if there is no way to get electricity to a pasture. If you have an electric perimeter fence, you can draw power from that, says Dr. Fernandez.

The power source is one of the most important components of a good electric fence. “Don’t go cheap on the charger,” warns Dr. Fernandez. Cows don’t require a very high voltage to keep them in, but sheep require 5,000 to 6,000 volts, and goats need at least 7,500 and preferably 9,000 volts. Electric fencing is not a physical barrier, but a psychological one. Animals usually only touch the fence once to learn to leave it alone, he says.

Another critical component of a good electric fence is the grounding. A good plug-in charger should have at least three 6-foot galvanized steel ground rods at least 10 feet apart, says Dr. Fernandez. The ground should be moist enough to carry a charge. If the ground gets too dry, water the ground rods. The north face of a barn or house along the drip line is a good place for ground rods. “Stay away from power or light poles,” he says. They use up most of grounding capacity of the soil in the area.

For more information on fencing or other livestock related questions, contact Dr. Fernandez at (870) 575-7214 or fernandexd@uapb.edu.

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