Moving along: Institute developing super-fast fencing tool

The device has been designed to allow one person to string half a mile of four-strand, 3D fence in just two hours

Any producer who has put up a temporary fence knows what a tedious process it can be. However, a new device may soon save producers some headaches by halving both the time and labour spent on installing temporary fencing.

“Based on some surveying we did of farmers, it takes four to eight hours to put up a half-mile of fencing with two people,” said Joy Agnew, project manager with the Saskatoon-based Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute.

“Our goal is to develop a tool that can allow a single person to put up a half-mile, four-strand, three-dimensional fence in two hours.”

The goal in developing the as-yet-unnamed tool is to allow more producers to enjoy the benefits of temporary fencing, such as access to crop residues and opportunity feeds.

“The added benefit of our equipment is it will be more robust,” said Agnew. “It will be a four-strand fence and will incorporate 3D attributes to keep wild animals out and livestock in.”

The typical routine today sees a producer go out on a quad and pound stakes into the ground, followed by wiring and attaching to an electrical supply. The institute’s new tool automates the process somewhat by releasing A-frame stands from a dispenser on the back of a trailer as the operator strings the wire. Almost no post pounding is required.

“It can be set up on frozen ground because it doesn’t require posts to be pounded into the ground except for the corner posts to anchor it,” said Agnew. “All the controls will be controlled by the driver of the truck or tractor. We’re testing in various field conditions to make sure that everything works as planned in a variety of terrains and soil conditions.”

The project is being funded by the Alberta Livestock Meat Agency and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture with commercial distribution in mind.

“That’s something we haven’t talked about in a lot of detail yet but the designers working on it are very cognizant of the fact that if it were to be commercially produced it will need to be scaled up and commercialized,” said Agnew.

The new tool could be on the market in a couple of years if there’s sufficient interest.

“We have one more year of testing and to develop our prototype so by the fall of 2016 we will be ready to start discussions with commercial partners if there’s interest,” she said. “Because it’s publicly funded it would be a pretty easy transition to go to commercialization.”

If there’s a go-to person in Alberta about fencing it’s probably Albert Kuipers, a forage and grazing specialist with the Grey Wooded Forage Association.

The idea sounds interesting, but will only win farmers over if the final commercial design is simple, effective, economical, and quick to set up, he said.

A four-strand design depends on individual producers’ needs, he said.

“Most temporary fences are usually single-strand electrified and that is quite sufficient for keeping cattle in. Having said that, if my goal is to keep wildlife out, I’d consider putting up four strands in a 3D configuration, provided I’ve seen enough evidence the fence design actually does keep the intended wildlife out.”

Also, research by his organization has found there is still room for improvement in the field of 3D fences, he added.

“We’re experimenting with some 3D fence designs and have found so far that deer and elk can be quite resourceful if they’re hungry,” said Kuipers. “So far, we’ve found that popular 3D fence designs are not completely foolproof.”

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