Pastures, Paddocks and the Buffalo

Joel Salatin, a sustainable farming guru, recommends dividing a pasture into smaller paddocks. The purpose is for cows to intensely graze the first paddock then move the cows to the next paddock. This technique builds a healthy pasture by mimicking nature much like the buffalo herds moving across the plains. Smaller paddocks are recommended for only a few cows, and even smaller paddocks for only one cow, which is what we have.

 I’ve been kicking around the idea of an electric fence to create paddocks quickly, easily and economically. It was time to try it. I thought I could just show up at the farm store and purchase what I needed. Wrong, there is a reason for the old saying, ”A job well planned is a job half done.” Thank goodness for Willis.

Willis, a wise old farmer, who happened to be working at the time, could see I was drowning in indecision. He threw me a rescue line with his experience. This kind gentleman educated me as to the differences in chargers, which set me to rethinking my needs. I knew I wanted a solar-charged fence, but that was about it. The original plan I had drafted in my head had some faults. Actually, it wouldn’t work.

So I laid out my paddock design on paper, for Willis to see. He patiently explained the various essentials needed to make it work properly. The devil is in the details. Electric gate handles, for example, I didn’t even know they existed.

So, home I went, with a bagful of goodies. I had fence wire, posts, insulators, and a ground rod system. I hadn’t decided on the size of energizer to use, but left with the determination to do my research. I set up the posts and ran the lines. To my delight, this was much easier than barbed or woven wire. Electric fence posts are more than a third cheaper than T-posts, and they don’t require a driver. I found I could make a gate with just a rubber gate handle for less than $5 versus $60 for a metal gate. I also did not have to worry about the nasty experience of getting wrapped up in barbed wire.

My elation soon evaporated when I realized I was short on insulators, gate handles and post anchors, so back to the farm store. The day ended with the lines pretty close to complete. However, I was still wrestling with the energizer choices. Solar power had been my only firm decision.

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, I headed back to the supply store to secure the charger I had decided on. Unfortunately it was sitting on the shelf next to the Cadillac of chargers that happened to be on sale. My old buddy Willis pointed out that for only $30 more I could have this beauty. I should have listened. Instead my cheap side won out.

Anyway, I ended up going to a different store to save $10 on another charger that I thought would work just as well. Bad choice. The $10, cheaper model had a 25-mile range. That would be about 24 miles more than I needed, but what the heck. It seemed the wise choice because it appears that many things can sap the electricity, like wet grass that touches the line, or I may want to add more lines in the future, and it was $10 cheaper.

After I got it home, I realized the new charger required several other parts. My $10 savings quickly turned into a $30 deficit, and, of course, the store where I got this great deal did not carry the parts I needed. It wasn’t looking like such a good deal anymore. 

It was back to good old Willis. I purchased the Cadillac, and am happy I did. It is a Zareba with a .15 joules output and a 10-mile range. The ease of installment, customer support, a clear, concise instruction manual with free installation DVD, and a better warranty put cheap to shame. The more expensive unit turned out to be a much better deal. Quality is always cheaper in the long run.

There are now two, one-quarter acre paddocks set up and ready for the cow. I am excited to see how this works, and put a new idea into action.

  • Published on May 27, 2015
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