May 04, 2015

Feral Electric Fencing

Mat Roberts says without the “dog fence”, they wouldn’t be able to farm sheep. “It really is that simple: Gallagher’s electric fence has been integral in our management of the wild dog predation.”
Mat and his wife Lindy manage the 1,300-hectare property “Rose Valley”, in Victoria’s picturesque High Country. Some 650ha is cleared, with 450ha of that surrounded by external electric fencing. The other 200ha has electric fencing but the terrain and river mean it’s not enclosed in what they call “the dog fence”.
The property’s previous owners, brothers Hugh and Rick Hoskins, first installed six kilometres of boundary electric fencing from Gallagher in 1994.
Mat says, “They copped quite a hammering from dogs, and just couldn’t keep doing what they were doing. Once the dog fence was in, it completely turned their job around. That’s why after the 2006/7 fires, we extended it where boundary fence had been burnt on land we’d recently bought, and continued it around a further 202ha of grazing land. We now have 14km of boundary dog fence, and another 10km of internal electric fence to manage livestock and pasture.”
Reduced stress, different focus

“The dog fence is not a silver bullet for the wild dog problem — the dogs are still there, on the outside. It is, however, a fantastic tool that gives us the confidence to focus on other jobs, and not be stressing continually over wild dogs.
“That’s a comment you hear often from people who are under impact from wild dogs: it’s just that continual waking up every day, with a sick-in-the-gut feeling of what disaster you’re going to find out in the paddock because of wild dogs. This Gallagher feral fence gives us peace of mind. We’ve still had incidents with wild dogs, but they’re minimal to the pre-fence days and certainly to what other people have.
“Dog attacks knock you about. They’re a continual thing and become your all-encompassing focus, so other things don’t get done. The previous owners told us how the fence changed their lifestyle. We find the same — you can focus on other farm activities, or even lifestyle activities.”
Gallagher experience a drawcard

Mat says when they wanted to extend the boundary feral fencing and install internal fencing, they went back to Gallagher.
“We knew through experience it worked. We didn’t look around. The property was running Gallagher gear and it’s been really good. Because we were relying so much on the fence, we’d come in contact with our local rep a bit, just with queries or questions or when we were doing changes or improvements, so we’d build a great relationship there, and with the stores — Rodwells in Mansfield, Hunters in Wangaratta and Tafco in Myrtleford.
“When we built the extra dog fence, we wanted to make some improvements too. The rep came out and we tried different energisers and systems. It was a very good way of resolving what needed to be done.”
Performance visible in an instant

Mat and Lindy installed two M2800 i Series Energizer Systems, adding an extra two remote monitors on each (one comes standard).
“This i Series, it enables us to just walk up to the shed, look at the screens on the energizer controllers, and we can tell straightaway how the fence is performing and if there are any issues with it. And that’s not just here at the shed, but through the monitors at remote points.
“Our most important monitor is probably the one right at the end of the fence. It’s all very well sitting at the workshop knowing that there’s 7,000 volts here, but it’s great to know there’s also 7,000 volts at the far end of the fence, and that’s what the i Series allows us to do. If there’s any sort of breach from a tree or anything causing a short on the fence, it’ll show up.”
Knowledge an advantage on conventional

“That’s the point we often make: people say that with a conventional fence you don’t have an issue if a branch falls on it, or if something happens you don’t necessarily have to go straight down and fix it, because there’s no power to short on a conventional fence.
“My answer to that is that with a conventional fence, you don’t know that branch is there until you physically go out around — in our case 14km of fence. With electric fencing, if there’s something, we’re aware of it and we can make an informed decision on how to manage it; we’re not flying blind.”
Repair simpler

Mat says another reason they chose electric fencing was its cost effectiveness to install and ease of repair. “This is a heavily treed area, so there are always trees that come down and so forth. From a repair point of view, it’s easier than a conventional netting or hinge-joint style of fence. Electric fencing just ticks all the boxes for us.”
Mat says these are also the reasons they chose Gallagher for their internal electric fencing. “For stock management and pasture effectiveness, it’s great.”
Maintenance key – and straightforward

He says they aim to use the best components they can. “We know that how well the electric fence works is a direct reflection of how well it’s built in the first place, and then maintenance is as important as constructing it properly.
“But we’re certainly more than happy to allocate time to maintaining it. It’s more than some people would do on their conventional fences, but then the benefits we get from maintaining that electric fence far outweigh the time.”
The bottom hotwire is about 100 millimetres off the ground, but varies according to the terrain. “There’s a balance between having it too low, where grass can short it out; or too high, so it lets animals under.”
Mat says an annual spray under the line for weeds and grass takes about three hours in spring — “it’s not a lot”. Strong autumn growth might see them needing a second spray.
Reliability and relationship are strengths

“The M2800 i Series Energizers obviously run on electronics, and there’s always the potential for electronics to go wrong, but these systems are just so reliable. “Also, the follow-up with the support we’ve had through our rep has been exceptional.
“I guess that’s as important as the reliability of the machine, because anything can and will breakdown, it’s more how you deal with it — especially for the likes of us, who are relying on it heavily from the dog point of view.
“We’re not kidding ourselves that the dog problem is all fixed because of the fence and we don’t have to pay attention any more. But it is a very successful tool for us. We certainly couldn’t do what we do without the fence. If the Hoskins brothers hadn’t built the original fence and had instead got out of sheep before we came in 2002, we would have assumed that this just wasn’t viable sheep country. The fence allows us to run sheep here, and enjoy this beautiful area, despite the dog problem.”

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