As useful and flexible as it is, portable electric fencing can be a bit of a tangle when it comes to implementation – but that no longer needs to be, thanks to the new SmartFence system from Gallagher. Anyone who has lugged electric netting or attempted to manage an armload of step-in posts, two or more spools of wire and a solar charger while walking across the pasture knows that setting up and taking down portable electric fencing can be vexing on the very best of days. Thankfully, the innovative folks at Gallagher felt our pain and created the SmartFence to kill it. Imagine my excitement when I first learned of this “secret” new product a few months ago. Imagine my joy when a SmartFence system arrived at my farm a couple of weeks ago and well ahead of its North American debut.
I’ve been making use of portable electric fencing for as many years as I’ve had grazing animals and poultry in my care – and that’s a lot of years now. I’ve struggled with various reel designs and different kinds of conductors – I even once welded up a 2-wheeled cart that featured compartments for step-in posts, chargers and batteries and self-winding spindles for handling up to three spools of poly wire. When I tore into the SmartFence box, I was practically trembling with anticipation – what I found was a beautifully engineered and self-contained 330-foot long, 4-reel, 4-conductor portable electric fence that had all the posts, anchors, guys neatly organized in a package that is as intuitive to operate as it is effective at controlling stock (and dogs). I knew just where I wanted to use the fence first – to enclose a lush patch of red clover and fescue grass that the sheep had been reaching through their pasture fence to get at.
Setting up the fence is as easy as loosening the tension on the integrated reel system, setting the anchor post (I tied its top to an existing fence) and walking. Since the conductors are already threaded through the posts the poly wire played out easily and without so much as the hint of a tangle. It took me about 3 minutes to setup and position a couple hundred feet of 4-strand electric fence – yes, the sheep were quite excited when I opened their pasture gate. Three days later I reversed the process and moved the fence to a location that I was planning to mow but have decided to let the sheep graze down instead – all thanks to the SmartFence.
Gallagher’s SmartFence system comes with an excellent set of instructions, but being the guy that I am, I cast them aside and just got down to fencing. I credit the company with making the SmartFence’s design so intuitive that setup and takedown are virtually foolproof operations. I have gone back to read the instructions (I read manuals and instruction sheets before bed) and found them to be clear and even learned a couple of tricks for stabilizing the end post that I didn’t intuit on my own.
Folks that know me know that I am quick to sing the praises of electric fencing. I think it is easier on the land, the wildlife, the stock and the humans. Sure there is a wee bit more maintenance with electric fencing due to issues relating to short circuits and the like, but the maintenance is easy work compared with high-tensile wire fence or barbed wire fencing. And with a combination of permanent and portable electric fence, you have infinitely endless possibilities for managing the animal flow around your place. The SmartFence represents a paradigm shift in how we will deal with portable fencing well into the future and is every bit as important a technological leap as were the invention of the low-impedance solar charger and step-in plastic posts.
The SmartFence was released in New Zealand earlier this year and has received reviews every bit as rave as my own. Look for this innovative new product ($259.99 MSRP) at your local Gallagher dealer sometime this fall.
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+.