November 25th and there’s still at least two months of good pasture left … assuming continuous hard freezes or deep snow don’t shut it down. We put up about a quarter mile of temporary electric cross fence last weekend to give the cattle and donkeys a fresh break.
The east and west boundary fences on this farm are pretty well shot. The old barbed wire hasn’t had any but the most rudimentary maintenance for what appears to be the last decade. The north and south boundary fences, on the other hand, are in good shape. So far, we have reinforced the western boundary with a couple of strands of 14-gauge low-tensile electric wire that pulses around 8,000 volts with the makeshift grounding system we cobbled together. I just wrapped the ground lead from the charger around an old copper water pipe that goes somewhere beneath the barn … this is far from the right way. That fencer will likely send closer to 10,000 volts through the wire once I get a proper ground field put together.
At the moment, the cattle are far enough from the eastern boundary that we use a single strand of 14-guage wire stretched between the north boundary fence and one of the permanent cross fences, which is still in fair condition. We charge that single wire with a Premier IntelliShock 20B battery-powered charger. This little box sends a consistent 9,000 pulsed volts through the wire … which is plenty to keep the animals from testing it.
Those who believe that cattle don’t experience joy have never opened up a fresh break of grass to the herd. This is one of the special treats for those of us who choose to manage how the animals graze the pastures. The animals know when it is coming, they appear to anticipate it, and they burst through the gate, literally kicking up their heels, as they take mouthfuls of lush growth from all corners. Eventually they get down to business, put their heads down and don’t come up for air for more than an hour. There is nothing like the sight and sounds of contented cattle doing what they were designed to do … harvest grass.
Photos courtesy of Kate Will.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.