Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Wednesday ...

Today was another Wednesday ... which means another very busy day. Although, this morning when I was dropping off some parts at one of my favorite stops, the woman who works in the office asked me how I was doing. I responded, "Oh you know ... just another Tuesday". After I said that she informed me that it was actually Wednesday ... the busy day. I don't know if I walked out of the shop glad that it was another day further along in the week than I thought it was, or if I was a little depressed because I really had no clue what day it was. Honestly though, with the new job in town and chores in the dark all the days really seem to blend together.

On the farm things are not going exactly as pleased. I might have 11 Katahdin sheep available if you're interested (and that includes the ram). One thing You should know ... five wires of electric won't keep these rogue sheep in :( I think I'm going to have to order some electric netting from the farm store where I work. I was planning on getting some next spring anyways, but was really hoping to hold off until then. Does anyone have any experience with the electric netting? Any tips or thoughts? I'm almost 100% sure I'll be going with the Gallagher because of the store discount I receive, but I'm open to all thoughts!

I'm hoping everything will come together this week and on Saturday and Sunday I will receive 4 loads of hay totaling 44 large round bales. I was supposed to be getting them about three weeks ago, but it would just never work out. Hopefully this will be the weekend. It will be such a relief to have them here, because I can't tell You how often I think about the fact that I need them while I'm out driving around and seeing hay on other people's farms. I would love to be able to make a little of my own hay next year, but we will have to see how things shake out.

As you can see it is just a little disjointed around the farm right now. I don't expect that to change anytime soon though ;) So, I'll just keep pressing on! It was nice to drop-off a nice load of pork and beef though at the Iowa Food Coop on Monday. Even though I'm not able to make a drop-off at the normal time and talk to other producers and customers it is nice to see some fruit from my labor!


Anonymous said...

Hi Ethan, your experience with sheep sounds a lot like mine. For me they were more trouble than they were worth. Combine that with with low hanging weights and high kill cost per animal relative to their size and your margin shrinks real quick. 5 strands wouldn't keep mine in either. Have you looked at the permanent from premier? It's a lot heavier duty than most netting- and although they recommend it for semi-permanent situations- it worked fine for us moving every day.
Sounds like your facing some struggles lately. You didn't ask for my advice, but if you did I would suggest simplifying the things that you can with your existing resources, IE: get rid of the sheep! Good luck! -Jim Dunlop

John said...

I'm even more of a beginner than you are I think, especially with sheep, but here's my 2 cents on the netting etc.

I have 6 Dorper/Katadyn crosses. I bought the Premier Perma-Net and a big solar powered fence charger.

So far it has worked well but for a few minor problems:

1. Moving the netting is cumbersome. Two people can move it about 20 times faster than one person.

2. Do follow the directions about "folding" rather than rolling.

3. Don't drag it across the ground. It is pretty tough, but it will pick up sticks, leaves, etc. and create a tangle which can take the better part of an hour to remove.

4. The fence really does have to be hot, pretty much all the time. Unlike my experience with horses and pigs, these sheep will test the fence (I've seen them walk up to it and touch it with their noses) and as soon as they discover it isn't hot they'll crawl under.

5. Motivation matters a lot. As long as I keep them moving and there's grass they like, the fence doesn't even have to be on, just standing. Let them get the slightest bit hungry or scared of something and they'll be out.

6. For me, the double bottom'd stakes are definitely worth the extra cost, though two of them have broken and I'm getting by. If the ground isn't damp, they're tough to push in without that step from the double tines. The manual suggests using a drill if the ground is dry or frozen. That is a huge hassle, I've found a piece of quarter inch rod with a point forged or ground on one end can be driven with a hammer more quickly and easily than drilling holes.

7. For me, damp overcast weather, especially if it is cold will require me to recharge the fence charger batteries each evening, or at least every other. It would be hard to manage a solar powered charger with netting without a fence tester.

Hope some of that is of some use. You've helped me because I was considering trying 4 strands of electric tape instead. Maybe not such a good idea after all.

Rich said...

I don't have any first hand experience with sheep, but I have been interested in adding some to the cattle for awhile and have been paying attention to how other people are building their fences, etc. for awhile.

I have seen a couple of local sheep and/or goat farms that have perimeter fences with 5-6 strands of barbwire with 1-3 offset electric wires. I think the idea is that the sheep is more likely to get a good shock from the offset wire while they are trying to push through the outer barb wires.

If I am remembering it right, I have also read that alternating a hot wire and a ground wire will better contain sheep (something about sheep hooves aren't as well grounded as cattle hooves due to the size). Combining this idea with an offset wire might work even better.

Another idea from somewhere was to use "stays" in the fence to make it harder for the sheep to squeeze through as quickly or easily. I think it is common practice in NZ to space fencing stays 10-12' apart in high-tensile fences to contain sheep. I can't remember who sells them, but a NZ-based fencing company sells pre-made stays, (a 3/4" PVC conduit drilled and attached like a powerflex post might work just as well).

Anonymous said...

I have Katahdins too, and I enclose them in Premier's Electronet and rotate them every several days. For the most part, my sheep are very respectful of the fencing. I did have two twin ewelambs born this year who were not- honestly I wondered if it was genetic-those two were consistently getting out! One day, I found one dead- strangled in the netting. She must have gotten her head caught, fell down, twisted a few times in a struggle to free herself, and it cut her circulation right off at her neck. Grr.

I suspect that temperament is part of it- how clever and willing they are to withstand a shock to get where they want to go-just like dogs that learn to blast through invisible fence. But I think another important key is to have that baby hot when the lambs are little, so they learn very early on to fear it. I think some people feel guilty having little lambs get shocked, so they leave it off for a while, and then the little lambs learn to squeeze through and get in that habit of testing it.

And then, as others have mentioned, it's important to make sure it's consistently on so they never learn to test it out and discover when it's off or a battery is low. I have been trying to make the habit of taking the fence tester out with me daily to check it since the "strangulation incident" to at least make sure I catch it if the battery is low or something got disconnected.

The Electronet is some overhead to move, for sure. I found that over time, I have become very efficient at it, but at first, it was a struggle. It takes me about 15 min to "flip" a rectangle made up of 4 of the 180' lengths. If your sheep are already experienced at ignoring fencing, you might consider the taller versions of the portable mesh, just so it's less tempting to try to jump over it.

Marianne said...

We use Premier's netting both for our poultry and our sheep (we have a small flock of Romney, Lincoln and Cotswold). I would agree with Michelle as I am certain the temperament of the sheep makes a huge difference. Thankfully, we have a permanent perimeter fence, so we use the netting for rotational grazing and don't depend on it to keep the sheep on the property.

The last 2 rolls we received from Premier sagged & I was quite disappointed. I contacted their fencing person and he agreed there was a problem with a batch of the fencing and would take it back (after we had just recycled the shipping box, thank you very much) or send us the posts that you put in between. We are using the posts and it works fine now.

I agree the double staked bottoms are the best. We have rolls of each type and it is so much easier to push the stakes in with your foot.

I really like the idea of the solar powered charger. For now, we are hooked into electricity.

We were lazy this past spring and didn't hook it up to the charger. We had a few lambs get their heads stuck, but I was home all day and could hear them baaaing. Then I read Michelle's blog about the lamb death immediately ran out and hooked it up to the charger.

We can pull ours along the ground, but we don't have alot of leaves or sticks in the pasture for it to catch on. And, maneuvering it does get easier with experience (though I have been known to leave a tangled mess for my husband to unravel.)

All and all, we are happy we use it and we definitely get better use of our pastures by rotating the flock.

Brian said...

The sheep's response to the fence depends a lot on whether they grew up on it or not. If sheep were exposed to electric fence when they were young, it takes a lot less to hold them in. If you buy ewes that aren't used to it, they are much more likely to charge it. They learn from each other, which means they both learn to stay in (if that's what the others to) and learn to escape (if that's what one rouge one does).

Also, in my experience, most of the netting other than Premier isn't worth the money in the long run.

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