Making the Leap to Mains powered electric fencing and rotational grazing

15 April, 2022

Making the Leap to Mains powered electric fencing and rotational grazing

Grassland management through rotational grazing can see a close to doubling of grass quantity, quality and utilisation if moving from a traditional set stocking regime. One of the perceived barriers is the additional infrastructure required, such as watering points and fencing which are crucial elements in the management of grazing livestock. During peak grass growth, paddocks may need to be split several times and require frequent animal movements to keep on top of grass growth to maximise utilisation and retain quality.

Replacing conventional fencing with Mains powered permanent electric fencing is increasing in popularity and offers significant cost saving providing an extremely reliable and flexible long-term solution that rotational grazing demands. A Mains powered system can be used to supply a live wire around the farm boundary or along sections of the fields. From these points, it is possible to then attach temporary lines from the permanent fence. Flexibility is key in a paddock grazing system and temporary systems added to the Mains or powered by smaller solar powered energizers are ideal.

In New Zealand, most farm fence lines since the 1960s have been made of tanalised pine posts with 2.5 millimetre gauge high-tensile wire for sheep and cattle with five lines for sheep or a single line only for cattle providing good conductivity across large areas if the system has a powerful enough energizer. A correctly earthed system together with high quality components is essential for good conductivity. The objective is to deliver a punch not a tickle and stock will quickly respect this and stay put. Barbed wire has largely become redundant in many NZ units.

Alisdair and Emma Davidson farm at Poldean near Moffat in Scotland running to 800ha with 300ha of improved grassland. The farm climbs from 270ft to 1,760ft, running 360 Salers suckler cows and 500 Lleyn ewes with both breeds chosen for their maternal attributes. They are a GrasscheckGB monitor farm and being part of the programme Alisdair confesses is;

“Just what a grass geek needs to get even more from grass to improve our productivity without necessarily increasing inputs to achieve this”.

The New-Dawn to Mains electric fencing started as far back as the new millennium in 2000. Alisdair explains; “We took the decision first to run a hotwire around the dykes offering them more protection. When we then Made the Leap to rotational grazing four years ago all we had to do was hook in, with no faffing about with batteries. You can literally get up that morning and subdivide a paddock with poly wire and create a 10-minute fence. We have lots of stock but little staff and moving them every three days in the peak grazing months allows you to check the stock at the same time as well, a daily and time consuming task you need to undertake anyway, to keep on top of the job”.

Any new fencing Alisdair erects at Poldean is completely galvanised metal including Clipex stakes and smithy made strainers and expects them to last a lifetime as like many producers, is frustrated with posts rotting out in a very short space of time.

Alisdair recently took delivery of a new Speedrite 46000W energizer* which can power up to 460 km (290 miles) of fence line capable of enclosing 260 hectares (640 acres) of grazing pasture and the ability to monitor and control the energizer from a smart phone. He adds;

*The 46000W Energizer is for professional use only.

“We have put in so much poly wire we were running short of power and I’m very impressed with the 46W -it’s certainly nothing but serious power! Really, 90% of the time you do not need it but the 10% of the time you do, stock need a real kick and the Cyclic Wave™ technology Speedrite have developed gives a cleaner and more powerful punch when on the odd occasion it is required”.

Alisdair also feels this makes a massive difference when training sheep onto electric and ‘the 10-minute fences’ also come complete with galvanised end posts complete with gateways and end-springs so the stock never walk over wires when being moved, they always go through a gate instead, which is a must-do practise when moving.

Alisdair can accomplish a 16 day grazing rotation during the peak growing season and yielded 18T of dry matter from a reseeded paddock across the season. Along with the Mains electric infrastructure, the Duncan drill has also been an invaluable tool with direct drilling paying dividends in his rotational grazing programme and he comments; “One thing we can do is grow grass which is our biggest asset here, and getting the right mixture established can be quickly accomplished too. Graze one day, ½ strength Roundup then direct drill after that. We have invested a fortune on our top two inches with lime so also no desire to plough it in and bury it, No picking stones either”! After all my late father Willie always said; "I don't mind working hard but we don't make work hard and rotational grazing with Mains fencing and direct drilling works for us".

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