Friday, October 17, 2014

Portable fences and graze rotations

To keep the goats healthy and reduce the need to worm them, aside from periodic Famacha exams, every five to seven days the girls are migrated to a new pasture.  On the surface this seems simple enough: select an area where they haven't grazed in a month or two, set up the portable fence, move the girls into the new space.  Easy-peasie.
So it doesn't turn into a goat rodeo, fence moving is best done when curious noses have gone to bed.  "Whacha doing?  What's that?  I wanna help!  Hey this fence isn't hot!  Look at me!  WEEEEEEEE!"  No, we're not going there.
Electric fences serve two purposes: keeping the bad stuff out (think: coyotes, dogs, and deer) and keep the good stuff in (goats, chickens).  Touch an electric fence and you learn very quickly what not to do.  Unfortunately doesn't mean that I've only been zapped once (try carrying a rolled up fence and bump into the live one: that's a sensation one doesn't readily forget).
Although we have permanent fencing around the pasture, for ease of rotation, mowing, and maintenance the temporary electronet type fencing works best for the internal paddocks.
Before the season, we did an estimate of how much pasture the girls would need and how to subdivide the area to best suit those needs.  As a work in progress, there are times that we are much more successful at this than others.
"You know you could utilize your pasture much more effectively if your fence lines were straighter."   This is a comment that one probably wants to keep to ones self, especially after ones neighbor has spent the better part of the morning trying to put the fence line in.  Why does it take so long?  Rocks.
One could spend weeks clearing a pasture of rock yet lurking just a few inches below the soil will be a stony foe.  Nothing makes a better rock divining rod than a temporary fence post.  The step on prong makes it easy to install and remove provided that the way it clear.  Minutes turn to hours as one positions, steps, then repositions and tries again.  One of the advantages to doing this task after a rain is that the rocks and soil are more forgiving and will gently yield to pressure.  Dryer days, though more pleasant to be outside, have the potential to add a challenge.  Like everything else on the farm: move slow and steady; don't get in a hurry; take your time; don't forget to breathe.
When its all said and done, moving the fence can be a meditative moment.  One is outside.  You feel the sun and wind.   You hear the birds and animals.  The repetition while installing it can be very relaxing.
 And those cute little busy noses, coming out to play.  It's a good feeling to know everyone is safe.

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