Thursday, May 24, 2012

Suicidal sheep and grass fed animals

 The picture above is a pasture that I kept pigs in last year; I frost-seeded the grass (planted it in the fall) and it's come in beautifully, lush and green.  The bare spot to the right is a low area in the pasture that had a pool of water, so the grass didn't survive there, but the rest is looking pretty good; vibrant fast-growing green.  I'll go back and replant the bare spots pretty soon here. 

But I am showing this picture because I'm trying a new (to me) fence.  This particular one is from premier fencing, and it's the poultry version of their electric net fence.  I got the poultry version, even though it's a little more expensive, on the advice of another sheep producer -- the bottom weave is small enough that lambs can't stick their heads through, and the hope was that this would prevent accidents.    It didn't though. 
fold near ground is a big problem
 The fence is pretty simple to put up.  the posts are attached, and you walk out each 160' length, pressing the posts in with your foot.  I this was the first time I'd used it, and there were a couple of problems right off the bat. 

First, look in the picture above -- even with the top and bottom lines taught, there's a fold in the fencing in the center.  With the 8-10" long grass I've got, this fold basically put 4 of the conducting wires on the ground, and when the grass was wet, it made my fence charger ineffective for the 480' of fencing here.  
fence cut to free the tangled lambs
The fencing was put up in the afternoon, the sheep were put into it, and watched for a couple of hours.  everything looked ok.  I got a call from a neighbor though, about an hour after I'd left the farm, that two sheep were tangled in the fence, and that it looked like one was dead, and that the other wasn't doing well. 

It looks like the larger sheep pushed the fence down and walked over it.  This years lambs, smaller, walked up and managed to their their heads through the large gaps just below the top of the fence.  Once of them strangled itself to death, the other was tangled and the neighbor cut it out of the fencing to free it. 

Pretty disappointing performance for this particular combination of fencing and charger.  The field that they're in has a secure perimeter fence, so the sheep defeating the mesh here doesn't really matter, but it matters a great deal on where I'd like to put them.  I'm hoping that the fence will both keep the coyotes out and the sheep in, but so far, with my car-battery charger and the posts inability to keep the fence off the ground, I'm not so sure that it's going to work. 

I'm using a power wizard pw2000b battery operated charger that is only powering this 500' of fencing.  It should be plenty strong to do this, and is sufficiently powerful to control pigs, which is what I've used it for before.  I need a battery or solar operated charger so that I can graze remote fields that don't have access to power. 


Rae said...

We use the same fencing for our chickens. Best way we've found to keep it all upright and straight is to put a fiberglass pole post between each of the fence posts. We just get the little pinch clips that slip over the top of the post and then hook the top line of the fencing over them. Takes a little extra work, but fixes the problem. Just make sure that if you buy the posts, you get the little black drive cap with the bundle. Those posts splinter pretty bad when hammered in, unless you have that cap to protect the end.

Anonymous said...

I have both types from Premier, and the poultry netting is definitely harder to get taut. But there are some tricks- as I walk, I slide the posts along the wire and pull each section tight when I seat the post. The lines have to be straight, and then I use thicker step-in posts at the corners to put more tension on the line. And the grass needs to be squished down good. If it's lumpy, as they graze the fence line, their head can slide under the bottom, and before they know it, they've slid under it.

It's good to get a tester and check it every day, to catch mistakes like accidentally looping a conductive wire under the metal stake, which can be hard to spot. Or sometimes I forget to clip the sections together! I've lost a couple of sheep to it as well, though, it's a risk-benefit trade-off for sure.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

We must have a shining cloud over us, because we use lots of this fence and never have had problems like this and others I have read about. Ours is hot enough to keep everyone in, with a low-impedance Pel battery type charger. Although we have two ground rods and run an electrifying wire to the actual net fence. We don't waste time mowing, tramping or making the fence sag-datskin free, if it is properly charged it works great. We do prefer the poultry netting to the Electronet, our original Electronet was shot in 5 years, but we have been using our Premier Poultry Netting since '99 and it is all still good except where we have caught it on a vehicle or something stupid like that. One tip I got from Andy lee of Chicken Tractor fame was to NOT connect the clips and give the electricity an outlet instead of a continuous circle or square.

That sucks losing an animal like that, they represent a lot of lost time, effort and money.

becky3086 said...

Sorry to hear about your lambs. I hope the second one recovers.

Lee Johnson said...

It's too bad you lost a lamb. The people I know who raise sheep always have tales of bizarre livestock death.

We have been using the Premier PermaNet for several years to control chickens, both electrified and not and are very happy with it. The Premier instruction page about their netting is very specific that the grass needs to be mowed to below 4 inches. Also, they recommend checking that the charge is above 3000V before you trust animals too it, as below that the shock will be too low for it to be an effective pain barrier. If you can't mow or spray, netting might not be a product that is well suited to you.

Throwback might not mow down the grass, but I don't see how you could keep a charge on those closely spaced low wires in foot deep wet grass without one monster of a fence charger. Preventing sags in the fence can be a challenge. I've helped someone move PoultryNet before, and we are much happier with the heavier PermaNet posts. (Especially if you don't move the fence very often.)

Bruce King said...

Lee, having just received this fencing from premier, I'm assuming that they included whatever documentation they thought was appropriate. I followed their instructions as provided, and just to make sure I didn't miss anything, I watched their instructional video at

Nowhere in the supplied literature or the video do they say that the grass should be mowed below 4 inches. They do show an ATV and say "for longer grass, run the bike back and forth to make a path". In my case, with this poultry net, the grass would have to be pretty darned short to not contact the lower strands of conducting wire.

For my installations I think I'm going to have to mow a fenceline each time I move the fence, as I usually maintain the pasture grass at longer than 6". It's a lot less handy than I'd like it to be.

My main gripe is that they should be a little clearer about vegetation touching the net. Wet grass makes it ineffective without a hell of a charger. The charger that I'm using is rated more powerful than their recommended charger.

Bruce King said...

good times on using additional posts between the attached ones. I'm going to try just tying up the middle of each fence with some bailing twine. I'm looking for something that I can just roll up with the fencing so that I don't have to put in more posts.

Walter Jeffries said...

I find it a good idea to clip the bottom hot wires at the ends, stretch the fence very tight, add extra vertical posts in any sags (we're on uneven hillside), pin the bottom for the same reason and use a very strong fence energizer to keep the animals from sticking their heads into the fencing. Sometimes we've even run an interior offset wire for recalcitrants but I cull those quickly as possible and that works even better.

The one issue with the high fence charger power is the netting may burn out at places where wires are sparking. This is more of a problem with older netting which has breaks in the wires. Clickity, clickity.

Cathy said...

I only use them for poultry including ducks and geese. I have had some birds get tangled but only when I had the power off. I keep a few step in posts and use them at sag points. I also have the premier poultry plus fencing and don't usually use anything extra with that fence. After I set the fence up I go around and stretch the space out a bit to prevent sagging. Even on uneven ground I don't generally need the extra step in posts with the plus fencing.

I am not at all happy with the Kencove fencing. It has nibs on the top that snag things and and cause more tangling. The verticals are solid rather than woven but actually sag more not less. I think most of the geese tangled up in fencing has happened with the Kencove fencing.