Don’t be spooked by electric fences

It takes awhile to become confident 
in electric fences, but it’s worth 
the effort, says a provincial 
beef extension specialist

Electric fencing is an effective grazing tool cattle producers should consider taking advantage of throughout the grazing season.

“The fence you put up doesn’t have to be permanent and expensive as electric fencing systems on the market today are very effective, mobile and easy to install,” said provincial beef extension specialist Andrea Hanson. “There are a number of companies in Alberta that sell electric fencing supplies. Some companies even provide a self-contained portable package deal with everything included.”

Cattle need to be trained to the electric fence.

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“An electric fence is a psychological barrier, not a physical one,” said Hanson. “To an untrained cow, an electrical wire isn’t an impediment. However, once accustomed to the electric fence, some producers have even got away with putting up twine to direct cattle into holding yards.”

It takes a few days to get cattle used to an electric fence.

“One method to train the cattle is to put up a perimeter hot wire in a small pasture or paddock and allow the cattle to discover it on their own,” said Hanson. “Cattle react in one of two ways — they either jump forward or they back up. If they do jump forward they may break the wire if it’s made of polyethylene, so gather them back up and enclose them again; fix the fence; and allow them to challenge the fence for a second time. An animal testing the fence for a second time is usually prepared to back up.”

An animal that continues to challenge and tear down the fence should be culled, she said. And the herd should be checked often to ensure it has been spooked through the fence.

“You may feel most comfortable moving the cattle into a more secure area at night so you sleep better,” said Hanson. “Once you feel confident that the herd has learned what an electric fence is, you can put up a one-wire fence in many locations to contain them and to utilize ungrazed areas. However, along traffic roadways, for liability and public perception purposes, a more solid barrier is needed.”

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