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Temporary fencing for pasture management

By Charlotte Meeks

Houston County CEA

While temporary fencing cannot replace permanent fencing, it has its place in a grazing management system. Temporary fencing can be used to divide permanent pasture for rotational grazing or intensive grazing systems, open areas for temporary grazing or to exclude livestock from an area. While permanent fences are intended to last for years, temporary fencing is intended to be used for a few weeks to a few months. At that point they will either be relocated or stored.

Whether you are putting in a permanent fence, temporary fence or a combination of the two, it is best to start with a plan. Thanks to the many resources available for aerial photos, sketching out your farm and designing your fencing system is now easier than ever. From that aerial photo you will want to begin by highlighting the areas where permanent fencing already exists, locate areas where livestock should be excluded, hayfields, permanent pastures, and cropland. Before adding in temporary fencing, you will need to determine your grazing production goal. Questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Do I want to add temporary fencing for rotational grazing into the permanent pasture?
  • Do I want to add temporary fencing around the cropland to graze crop residue?
  • Where are my shade and water sources?
  • Do you have lanes or ways to move the livestock to the temporary areas?

Temporary fencing is usually built out of one or two strands of electrified wire. The wire can be made out of steel wire or rope/tape with electric wire woven into it. The rope/tape is more flexible than steel wire and is more visible to livestock. This is an important factor if the wire is going to be moved often or into area where livestock are not used to having fencing. An electric fence controller is used to electrify the wire.  To be a “live” or electrified wire, it must complete a circuit. The circuit can be either from the energizer through a “live” wire through the animal, through the soil, and through ground rods back to the energizer, or from the energizer, through a live wire, through the animal, through a ground wire back to the energizer. Moist soil is a good conductor of electricity. However, when soil moisture is depleted (or not effective when frozen), animals will not be shocked by electric fences unless ground wires are included on the fence. This is different from permanent electric fence that uses alternate wires that are hot and grounded.  Corners require less bracing than permanent fencing, and line posts may be smaller and spaced further apart since the fence will be used for a short period of time.

 

B. Moveable Electric Fences 3
Types Comparative
Cost Index
1
(Material Only)
Approximate Life2
in Humid Climate
(Years)
Upkeep
Steel Wire (Smooth, 1-strand)
12 gauge 7 33 High
Reflective Tape or Rope
0.5-inch 11 30+ Medium

1 Cost index figures are to show relative cost, not actual costs. For example, fence with an index figure 25 costs about twice as much per foot as a fence with an index figure of 12.

2 Fence life based on combination of post and wire life expectancy.

Anyone that has bumped an electric fence knows it is not a pleasurable experience. For livestock it is not different. The severity of the shock is dependent on the voltage and amperage, the duration of the shock and the sensitivity of the animal. It takes a minimum of 700 volts for cattle, pigs and horses, and up to 2000 volts for long-hair cattle, goats and sheep. The controller should be selected carefully based on the livestock and distance of the fenced area.

Temporary fencing is a great way to manage an intensive grazing system or to offer alternative grazing options. While it is up to you if you go with steel wire or rope/tape, just make sure the livestock is aware of the location of the fence. Since the controller is the heart of an electric fence, make sure you choose one that best fits your situation. Call your extension office for further information.