Protecting stored hay from wildlife

‘Sweet and simple’ and 3D are two of your options, but the starting point is putting a 
dollar figure on the hay eaten by Bambi and his hungry mates

Deer, elk, and moose pose a serious threat to stored hay reserves on farms across the Prairies — especially during winter when they are most desperate for feed.

Hazing and chemical deterrents may keep these ungulates away in the short term, but this route is often time consuming and not a permanent solution. Fencing the perimeter of your hay storage area is often the only long-term answer to this problem.

The first factor to consider before constructing a fence is to determine if the cost of the damages to your hay exceeds the cost of building the fence. Barrier and woven fences are typically more costly to construct, however, they are a strong force against annual wildlife pressure on stored hay that is continually kept in the same spot. Electrical repellent fences are a less expensive alternative and more mobile, however, they require more maintenance. Below are only a few of the many different fencing options available to farmers.

Sweet and simple

A “sweet and simple” fence lives up to its name. It consists of one or two strands of 17-gauge smooth wire at 2-1/2 feet above the ground with foil attached at three- to four-foot intervals. In the foil spread a mixture of half peanut butter and half vegetable oil or molasses to entice ungulates to the fence. In theory, they will then avoid the fence once they have been shocked.

A mixture of half peanut butter and half vegetable oil or molasses attracts wildlife to an electric fence, with the hope a good jolt will keep them away in future.

A mixture of half peanut butter and half vegetable oil or molasses attracts wildlife to an electric fence, with the hope a good jolt will keep them away in future.
photo: Tessa Nybo

A seven-wire vertical electric fence is slightly more secure as it has more strands of wire. However, as with the sweet and simple fence it is only effective at shocking wildlife that walk into it, and doesn’t deter animals from jumping over the fence. A slanted seven-wire electrical fence presents a physical and psychological barrier for deer, elk and moose because of its three-dimensional nature. This type of fence tends to cost slightly more to build than a simple seven-wire vertical electric fence.

A variation of the slanted seven-wire electrical fence is a double electric 3D fence design where two electric fences spaced three feet apart pose a height, depth and width deterrence to ungulates, which have poor depth perception. Another version of the three-dimensional fence is to put an additional four strands of electric or barbed wire at a 45-degree angle off of the top of the existing electric fence. These strands should be facing outwards towards the animals that are coming towards it, once again causing a 3D effect that the ungulates have difficulty navigating. The 3D fences have been documented to be an effective alternative to permanent wildlife fencing, which is more costly and non-mobile.

The Peace River Forage Association of British Columbia spearheaded a 3D fencing research project from 2010 to 2012. The project consisted of eight co-operators, each with their own set of objectives for the project. Each co-operator designed a different variation on the 3D fencing concept. While results varied on each operation, they were successful overall in mitigating wildlife damage to their hay, silage, and grain bag storage areas.

“The 3D fencing is quite high maintenance as it must be checked consistently to ensure both fences remain electrified at all times in order to sustain the effectiveness of the 3D concept,” said Talon Johnson, who works with the Peace River Forage Association of British Columbia.

“However, 3D fencing is a very good temporary option that is relatively simple and inexpensive to construct in comparison to permanent wildlife exclusion fencing.”

Sandra Burton was one of the co-operators who was a part of the fencing project.

“We have put up a number of different variations of the 3D fence over the last few years to keep deer and moose out of our stored hay and winter feeding area,” says Burton.

“They definitely worked to divert wildlife from a habitual trail through our pasture, and kept them out of our stored winter feed. However, we would urge people trying 3D fences to commit to the regular maintenance periodically throughout the winter that each of the systems we tried requires.”

Mitigating wildlife damage to your feed reserves can take on many forms, however, if damage is becoming reoccurring and extensive it is often economically feasible to put the effort into fencing the perimeter to exclude wildlife from these areas.

There are numerous online resources for determining the specifications of the materials required and spacing recommendations. The Peace River Forage Association of British Columbia is continuing to do research on fencing to prevent wildlife damage to feed reserves, and in particular the 3D fencing concept. Results of these studies can be found at www.peaceforage.bc.ca.

About the author

Contributor

Tessa Nybo is a leader and advocate in the agriculture industry, esteemed cattle clinician, and professional speaker. She raises prospect show calves and purebred Limousin as well as growing grain and forage crops north of Edmonton, Alberta. Visit her website at www.tessanybo.com.

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