Most farms have electric fences at least for part of their farms. Dairy farmers in particular set-up temporary fences daily (made up of a reel of polywire and ‘pigtail’ standards (to keep the wire off the ground)) to set up the exact amount of area for their herd of cows eg a 5Ha paddock may be split into 2x 2.5Ha for the morning grazing and then after milking for the evening grazing. Electric fences are very important to manage grazing of the pastures effectively and ensure our cows are being fully fed.
It is important that farmers know how high the voltage is in their electric fences. If a fault occurs and there is none, or too low a voltage around the farm eg an electric wire shorts out on another wire, a tree branch falls on an electric wire, or an insulator burns out, it can mean that animals will break through the electric fence. This can have particularly devastating effect if animals are on a crop, where if they break through to a large area and gorge themselves they can become sick or die, or even on pasture with high levels of clover, they can get bloat and die. Whether it is pasture or crop a break-out results in wastage, and impacts future grazing.
When there is a fault in the electric fence system it can be time consuming to track down where the fault is. There are handheld ‘fence testers’ which can be attached to the wire locally which point to the direction of the problem. However, it can still be time-consuming to track down and fix a fault.
Putting up temporary electric fences is time consuming and requires a level of skill and expertise to calculate where the fence should be erected in the paddock to ensure the animals are fed as the farmer has planned. A temporary fence put up in the wrong place, resulting in the poor grazing of a paddock, can have a negative impact on that paddock’s grass production for almost the rest of the season.
Paddocks often have one or more gateways that animals can enter or exit the paddock. Human error occurs and gates can be left open for cows to enter the wrong paddock. Again this can result in wastage of the grass, as well as time in getting the cows out of the paddock to the correct paddock.
How can we better manage our electric fences and gates on farms?
The situation is a challenge because:
1. We have open metal wire suspended by insulators, which is susceptible to shorting out, with loss of power for the entire farm
2. We need to erect temporary fences in the correct place to ensure we feed our animals and manage our pastures efficiently
3. We have multiple gates that can be left open due to human error, resulting in animals going to the wrong paddock
4. It can be difficult to find a fault in an electric fence system around the entire farm
An innovative system would include: 1.) a dashboard of the farms electric fence system, with green, orange and red lights signifying whether it had good voltage, low or no voltage 2.) Virtual fences and or gates, that could be set by an app. 3.) Dashboard showing whether gates closed or open, and ability to open or close gates by app. Would need to have default close if power went off and a manual override so gates could be opened.
The desired result would be better management of movement of animals and reassurance that they are in the correct paddock, or part of paddock. Less opportunity for mistakes. It would result in less wastage and higher productivity. It would give farmers more time to do other things, rather than putting up and taking down temporary fences