Properly training animals to an electric fence can mean all the difference before using the fence to contain them.
Don Ashford, a rancher in Ethel, Louisiana, and the National Grazing Lands Coalition offer some tips for training animals properly.
- Unload animals into a catch pen with water and hay for 24 hours.
- Release them into a trap, or gathering pen, that funnels into the working pens by just opening the gates and letting them go in on their own. This cuts down on a lot of running and gives them the opportunity to explore their surroundings without being harassed.
- The trap has two rolls of hay – one on each end – and a water trough at the end furthest from the gate. Run a single poly wire across the trap except for an opening on one side about 15 feet wide. Animals must travel through this gap to get from one end of the trap to the other and with the water trough only on one end it becomes necessary to make this trip. The rolls of hay are placed close to the hard wire perimeter to cut down on fence walking.
- Cattle will discover the poly wire across the trap and come in contact with it on their own. While this will be a shocking experience, it is seldom that a calf will try it more than a couple of times and then it will learn to walk to the end of the poly wire. From time to time there will be a calf that will jump into the poly wire and take it down. Putting it back up is a simple task.
- After a day or two, the calves will learn that every fence plus the poly wire will shock. This way they learn to avoid all fences.
- Next, turn the calves into the paddocks. We have learned that it works best to not make the first paddock any larger than it needs to be to allow for one day’s grazing. This cuts down on walking and still gives the calves what they need. It will take some time for them to learn to come to call, but the fact that they are going to fresh grass will, after a few days, make this an easy chore.
Watch the Wallace Center’s Guide to Training Animals to an Energized Fence as part of The Pasture Project.