Fences are a great invention. We like fences. Fences are good. They tend to keep our animals where they need to be. Emphasis on the word “tend”. As I shared in a previous post, moose and fences don’t really get along here on our farm. When a moose takes on an electric fence, the fence usually ends up flat on the ground!
We train our animals to respect the electric fence. To respect the presence of a fence, period. Sometimes, the electricity shorts out during a storm and the fence may not be hot anymore. We still want our animals to respect the fence and for the most part, they do. But, sometimes an opportunity presents itself and an animal tests a fence or disrespects the fence, and boom, you have a habitual fence offender. As we have discussed in previous posts, we employ a hay bale grazing system during the winter months to feed out our hay. The success of this feeding method hinges on our animals respecting the electric fences.
Let me share two stories with you, where the phrase, “What are you DOING?! Get out of THERE! “ makes an Oscar winning appearance…..
During a routine morning check, I discover a cow (D9) in with the hay bales. Seems innocent, right? No, she was in with the hay bales BEHIND the electric wire. “What are you DOING?! Get out of THERE! “ No good. Not gonna fly here on the farm. It really is disheartening when one of your cows decides to start disrespecting the electric fences. Our entire operation depends upon our cattle respecting fences.
D9 went on to become a definite problem cow that winter. Luckily, the rest of the herd stayed far away from the trouble and did not dare join in. We gave her one more chance. Well, she blew through the second chance like a kid challenged to eat all their Halloween candy in one sitting. She met the challenge. Eventually, we added on additional wires to our fencing system to further protect the hay bales “behind the wires.” That contraption finally stopped her in her tracks. But, her ticket was already bought.
Once a cow becomes a habitual fence breaker, she has bought a ticket for a trip down the road. We have no room on our farm for any cow that can’t respect our fences. Not only will she slowly start to train younger members of the herd to disrespect the fence, she will COST US MONEY in the form of hay being eaten before schedule. She will throw the whole feeding regime off-kilter. Like I said before, we gave her a second chance, hoping it was just a fluke but she proved herself to have no respect for the fence until we built a wall of wire to stop her, pretty much.
D9 did go on to have a healthy calf that spring, which was great, but the trouble she caused throughout the winter was not forgotten. We sold her and her calf that summer.
This fence breaker was a bit of surprise. She was part of our original herd of 10 cows. This was her 3rd winter with us, and she had never shown any disrespect for the fences. She was a big girl, bigger than what our vision was for our herd but you can’t be too picky when you are first starting out. She gave us many fine calves and never caused us any trouble. We kept her on, as others got sold-off.
Then, one day during the winter, we discovered her in the hay bales, behind the wire. “What are you DOING?! Get out of THERE!” Sigh…. And, that was that. It was like a switch flipped in her and fence breaking/jumping/ducking under the wire became her mission. She was a hard one to let go of because she had been part of our foundation herd. But, in times like that, emotions have to be put aside and what is best for our farm – our business – has to come first.
Take Home Point
- Seriously consider culling any cattle from your herd that do not respect your fencing system. Don’t waste time and money on troublemakers!
Thanks for reading!