Archive for the ‘Goats’ Category

Premier 1 Electric Net Fence Tips

Over the years we have really come to appreciate the temporary electric fences from Premier One. Honestly I’m not sure how we would be able to operate the way we do without this type of fence. In 2020-2021 there have been some difficulties in getting the fence because it isn’t in stock, but it’s worth waiting for. Set up an email alert! They haven’t provided us any compensation for this post, though, they’d certainly be welcome to. As much as we’ve bought, you’d think we’d be eligible for at least a free hat or something!

Selecting the Fence

We have several different varieties that we’ve acquired piecemeal over the years, including the 42″ and 48″ heights, the single and double spike, regular poles vs drive-able poles, and the closer vs the normal pole spacing (Poultry Net is the standard, Poultry Net Plus is the narrower spacing). We even have some of the very widely-spaced fence for larger animals, which allows the chickens to pass through. Our smaller goats can get through it also, so we don’t use it for them. The LGD respects it, but I’ll be very disappointed if any of you tell her that she could easily jump it! So far she hasn’t thought to try. We had one cow for a while and the fence worked fine for him too, but I think he would have been happily contained by a strand of yarn honestly.

For us, the only variety that we want any more of is the 48″ dual spike, either the Poultry Net or the Poultry Net Plus. These two can both be useful depending on the terrain and complexity of the routing. If it’s going to be a fairly straight run over fairly even terrain, we use the standard Poultry Net. Both types have the same number of poles per bundle, so the standard provides a 10-foot pole spacing for a total length of 164′ per roll. The Plus has 6’8″ spacing for a total of 100 feet per bundle. The closer pole spacing really shines if you are needing to introduce curves, maneuver around obstacles, or hug more rolling terrain, but naturally the reduced coverage makes it less economical. It can be nice to have some of each, deploying the most appropriate piece for the task at hand.

The dual spike is the only way to go for us, because it makes it easy to step the post into the ground under normal circumstances, or if the ground is really dry, we can use the flat portion of the double spike to hammer the post into the ground. I don’t think we’ll buy any more of the single spike.

Effectiveness with Poultry

As one would expect, the Poultry Net keeps in the birds just fine, except for the ones that fly out. At that point, we let them assume their own safety from predators. This is part of our selective breeding practice. But in their defense, if they can fly enough to get over the fence, they can probably also fly enough to roost in a tree. We have never lost a single bird to a ground-based predator, as long as the bird was inside the fence. Aerial predators like hawks do occasionally pose a problem. The only tip I can offer for aerial predators is that you have to break the habit- shut down the buffet by putting the birds away for a few days, or the predator will come back for one at a time until they are all gone. This is especially true with chicks, adolescents, and silkies.

Goats

We have tested the poultry net extensively with the Mini Lamancha dairy goats and with a few full-size Alpine dairy goats. Sometimes it is said that we only successfully contain goats when they want to be contained, and I tend to agree. Once during a breeding visit, one of our mini does managed to jump over the 48″ fence to get away from a buck that she didn’t like. She didn’t exactly sail over it, but rather picked the saggyest looking part (around 40 inches actual height), and managed to get over with minimal leg entanglement. The whole situation was sub-optimal, but honestly I think she would have challenged just about any fence from the look of her demeanor.

We have also had small goats manage to shimmy under the fence, especially if the ground is very dry. These type of electric fences depend on the shock to flow from the charger, through the fence, through the animal, and then return back to the charger through the actual earthen/dirt ground. When the dirt is dry, that final link in the chain becomes weak and the shock is less effective. Our only way to break this habit, other than a nice steady rain every week or two, was to install a “cone of shame” on the offending kid. As with the birds of prey, sometimes it’s sufficient just to break the habit.

Chargers

Speaking of chargers, naturally we can’t depend on the “acres” or “miles of fence” ratings that chargers are marketed with. Those numbers are for a single strand of wire, and these electric net fences are energized on every horizontal strand, which is 12 strands for a 48″ Poultry Net. A stand-alone solar charger is almost certainly going to be worthless. They are typically a quarter or half a Joule, and aren’t going to successfully power much more than one length of fence, if that. We have better results with using a ratio of one joule per length of fence, more or less. Sometimes we violate that, and it may work fairly well for a while, but then that’s when the more curious of our goats start to challenge it. If the fence isn’t always hot, the goats will figure it out really fast. You’ll likely not be able to find a charger larger than 3 joules at places like TSC or Rural King, but we were able to order a 12-Joule from Cyclops with no trouble. Here’s more info on our solar setup.

Pigs

We do also have one length of the knee-high pig fence. That worked great when we had our pig. It ships in a positive and ground configuration, but we converted ours to positive only just to simply things. Like most non-goat animals, once he experienced a single shock, he didn’t really challenge it again, except for one time that his feeder got plugged up and he got hungry. After that we learned to check not only the level of feed in his hopper, but also to clean out his lower portion of it every week or two. It’s funny how the farm has a way of teaching us these small lessons. We did try to use this fence with adolescent poultry, intending that they could come and go through the fence but still retreat to safety. This didn’t work very well.

Drawbacks

The one hazard that threatens these fences more than any other, at least for us, is moving water. At our first farm we routinely had major floods, and came to expect them. The fences would often get swept away and buried in sand and debris. Thankfully our current farm isn’t subject to such torrents, but we do get occasional heavy rains, and the fence does a great job of keeping in anything that would have normally floated by. We’ve found that a short scrap of fence (left over from a fence that was damaged beyond reasonable repair in a previous flood) can make a nice sacrificial barrier for debris, keeping the primary fence functional. This can make the difference between keeping the animals in or not, especially if we aren’t on site right away to deal with problems as they arise. The same philosophy could be applied with a second length of fence, if you don’t have the good fortune of already having ruined one.

Also, though we went many years before we started using gates, now we use them often and have come to appreciate their simple and effective design. That is, once you fix them by gluing on the ends!

Finally, we have found it easy to integrate the short pig fence with the 48″ chicken fence. In this video, you can see more details about the moving water, the gates, and the pig fence integration:

Moving Water to Remote Parts of the Farm

Whenever possible, we try to establish rainwater collection systems that directly dispense water to the animals. This is the case especially with poultry. But when we move the goats around by rotating their pastures, sometimes we need to transport water to their troughs. Our friend the IBC tote is great for this. A small tractor like our Mahindra 1526 can only lift 1200 pounds, which means a tote that is about 1/3 full. But that’s plenty of water to make it worth the trip. And the front-end loader makes it easy to lift the tote high enough to gravity feed. Here’s a video of what happened when we tried to fill the calf’s bucket. He was part of the 2020-2021 Catawba County 4-H Dairy Steer project, in which our older daughter bottle fed him from when it was tiny enough to pick up and carry around, until he was old enough to graze. By the time he left our farm, he was almost 600 pounds, and still only half of what would likely become his final weight. He was a big one!

Portable Solar-Powered Fence Charger

We like to rotate to fresh pasture for the animals, which means it’s hard to build a permanent infrastructure for fence chargers. This is our favorite way to power a big fence with a big charger:

Building Goat Houses from IBC Totes

We’ve tried several different methods for goat housing. The goats don’t often use houses, unless it is raining, but our favorite method so far has been to repurpose IBC totes. These are the essentially a pallet for shipping liquid. We also use them for rainwater collection. It’s easy to move them around the homestead with the fork attachment on the front-end-loader for the tractor. Having made a dozen or so, here is the fastest way we’ve found to do it: