Yesterday, we moved the ladies onto new grass. We do this every 5 days or so, depending on how quickly they eat through the grass they are on. After a couple of months, we’re getting more efficient with these maneuvers. If you’re interested in what this entails, read on. If not, just watch the “New Grass” video below.
We use portable electric fencing to make our paddocks. We purchased 7 lengths of Premier ElectroStop 10/42/12 fencing from Wellscroft Fence Systems back in July. Six of these are 164 feet long, and one is 82 feet long. “10/42/12” means they have 10 horizontal plastic strands (the top nine are electrified), are 42 inches tall, and have plastic vertical struts every 12 inches. The posts that are stuck into the ground are spaced 12.5 feet apart. Two of these longer lengths are “Quick Ground”, with the bottom strand acting as the ground for the system. As long as we use the Quick Ground, we don’t need to pound a grounding rod into the earth, and we can attach up to three regular sections to the Quick Ground to have an effective fence.
(I’ll explain what we do with the 82-foot length in another post.)
The current is provided by a Solar Energizer. In addition to the solar cell, it has two 12-amp batteries for nights and rainy days (like today). For you electricians and physics majors, it puts out 1 joule of energy. When its connected and the fence isn’t being grounded by too much grass touching the electric wires, it puts out bursts of up to 6000 volts about every second (you can hear a slight clicking if you get close). As long as it doesn’t get below 3000 volts, we’re happy. We also got a little handheld tester from Wellscroft that shows how much power is going through the fence.
The girls are contained within two 164-foot lengths that are connected, one being a Quick Ground unit. That’s about a seventh of an acre. On moving day, I start by pacing off what I think will be the perimeter of the next paddock. I try to use one portion of the standing Quick Ground fence as one of the sides of the new paddock (meaning I won’t have to move it). Once I’ve paced it off, I hop on the John Deere to mow the grass where the new fencing will go. Using two “spare” lengths of fencing, I put up the new paddock. Most times, I find that I didn’t pace off enough to have the two lengths meet up perfectly in a nice rectangle. That means I go back and have part of the fencing march “zig zag” down the line along the 4 foot swatch that’s been mowed to take up the slack. Yesterday my perimeter mowing was a little too big, but I was able to “cut corners” and get it to fit. I really don’t like to get back on the mower and cut a new path.
While I’m doing all this, the ladies are paying pretty close attention – they know that new grass is on its way. This makes me a little nervous, as I usually turn off the power while I’m setting up the new fencing. This isn’t because the new fence is connected to the “hot” fence (that would be stupid). Again, you electricians and physicists probably know why I do this. Induction – the power will jump through the air to the new fencing, giving a nice little tingle.
Once the new fencing is set up, all I have to do is “open the door” – pull up a section or two of the Quick Ground separating the ladies from their new pasture. The first few times we moved them, we had to use a pail of grain to entice them to the new field. Now, they pretty much just run into the new enclosure and start chowing down. A few weeks ago I had the fence between the two sections lying on the ground (I can’t remember why) and they either jumped or walked over it to get to the new grass.
While they occupy themselves with the new grass (and CLOVER!) I walk back and forth between the two sections – moving their feed troughs, water bucket, and mineral feeder. I refill the water bucket from two Home Depot buckets that I’ve filled up in the garage and brought down in the trailer. My last moving chore is to disconnect the weight bags that are holding down the farmer’s market canopy, collapse the canopy, move it all and set it up again in the new section. Then I close up the new paddock and bring around the section of Quick Ground that was one of the walls for the old paddock, stick it in the ground and connect it up with the other section of fence. Now I’m ready to turn the energizer back on.
Final clean up – take down the two sections of fencing (one part of the old paddock, the other filling in for the section of the Quick Ground during the transition), bundle them up, and toss ’em in the trailer.
From beginning to clean up, this typically takes 60 to 90 minutes.