Here at the farm I am still in the process of repairing fences, out buildings and barns. One of my top priorities is to replace the old five strand wire fence with woven wire. Because there are still sections of fence needing replaced, I have used temporary sheep fencing to set up an easy rotational grazing system.
Before we get into how to set up a temporary fence system, I’d like to share some benefits of rotational grazing. Rotational grazing is a management system where a pasture is divided into smaller paddocks for livestock to be rotated through, grazing one paddock at a time allowing the others to rest.
Land quality is improved through rotational grazing by strengthening root systems and adding biomass to the soil structure. As well as, offering protection from over grazing and soil compaction. Pasture is allowed to rest and regrow, while another area is being grazed. Ideally each paddock will have four to six weeks rest, and only grazed seven days or less.
Rotating paddocks in this way keeps livestock on fresh pasture so they are not forced to graze near their waste, reducing exposure to parasites and will greatly improve land quality over time.
The system I use is a super simple electric netting fence from premier1. It is easy to set up and move on a daily or weekly basis. The electric system not only safely contains my flock, but also provides protection from loose dogs and coyotes. Here is a list of what you will need to set up your own system:
Premier1 offers an ElectroStop Plus Starter Kit, that contains every thing you need, except the ground rod, to get started with your set up. The kit comes with one 100′ roll of fence netting with the option to add additional rolls. One or two rolls would be fine for a small flock moved frequently. Ideally, I would use four to make set up and bracing corners easier.
Ground rods can be ordered separately from Premeir1 or picked up at practically any farm supply store. I am using a copper ground just because it’s what my local farm store had in stock. It has worked well for me, but since I have not used other options such as galvanized metal, I won’t speak to which is best.
During the initial set up of your fencing system you will need to ensure the energizer is properly connected and prep your site area. Then you are ready to set up your fence system.
If using a new energizer, note that they are sold with the battery disconnected. Sometimes the ground and charge cables are also disconnected. Typically, it is as simple as opening the unit, removing a tab placed between the “hot” connection (usually labeled with “remove before using”). Other units may have a quick connect cable that needs to be plugged in. You should follow the provided manufactures instructions for the specific brand you purchase for set up and initial charging.
Energizers can be solar or ac powered. I prefer the solar units, because there is greater flexibility to where I can set them up. If you’re using the starter kit I recommended from Premier1, it comes with a solar energizer. Set it in an area where it will get the maximum amount of sun. Drive the ground rod into the ground next to the energizer and connect the ground cable (typically black) to the rod.
To prep the site for installation of the fence, mow or weed eat tall grass along the strip where the fence will go. If the grass is already short, say less than six inches or so, you can skip this step.
Watch the video linked below for a quick explanation on setting up your electric netting.
Once the fence is in place connect your hot cable and turn on your energizer. Use the fence tester to ensure your system is working properly. Congratulations, your system is ready for your flock!
When you first introduce your flock to their new electric enclosure, observe how the animals react to touching the fence. They do learn very quickly after a couple shocks that they shouldn’t touch it, but you will want to be nearby just in case one reacts differently and runs into it and gets tangled. If that happens, you will need to quickly turn off the energizer and untangle the animal. As long as, the animals are calm when entering the enclosure you shouldn’t have an issue with this.
Allow the flock to graze the area until it starts to appear trampled down or up to a week, whichever happens first. It is time to move the flock to new pasture at this point. If after a week, the pasture is still lush and under grazed you know you need to reduce the size of the paddock or get more sheep! The frequency with which you rotate the flock will depend on how quickly the flock grazes or tramples down the forage. To extend grazing time, increase the paddock size but keep in mind some benefits are lost if grazed over a week at a time.
To move the fence system, I add an additional three rolls of ElectroStop netting. With the additional rolls, I set up a new enclosure using the fourth side from the existing enclosure. Move the energizer and ground rod to the new system if needed and open a gap for the flock to enter. The first time doing this you may need to coax the flock over with a little grain or gently herd them in. After a couple times they will know a new lot means fresh forage and they will go willingly. When time to move again, I simply take up my three rolls from the previous lot to create the new and continue rotating in this way each week.
This system has worked extremely well for me. I hope it helps with your fencing needs as well.
My flock quickly learned the routine and happily run to their new grazing strip each week. It has also added a much-needed level of protection against loose dogs in our rural area, and the coyote population.
Have you tried this or a familiar system with your flock? I would love hear how it worked for you.