Use electric fencing effectively for grass utilisation

Rob Massey, Tru Test
Rob Massey, Tru Test

With livestock farmers reporting a focus on grassland utilisation in 2018, the benefits of electric fencing systems need to be assessed and the long term financial and performance gains should be considered.

“The set up costs are obviously much lower with an electric fence than a traditional permanent fence – around 90p/metre compared to £6-8/ metre for posts, stock netting and barbed wire – however, this is far from the only reason farmers should consider electric fencing options,” says Rob Massey, managing director of Tru-Test, who market PEL electric fencing systems and distribute products to over 100 countries throughout the world across four key brands.

“There are significant gains to be made in terms of grassland utilisation. Electric fencing allows stocking rates to be increased because grazing can be managed much more effectively.

“Being able to move a fence, quickly and easily, as seasonal growing conditions change, means you are much more likely to graze grass at the optimum time.

“This particularly applies to ryegrasses that have a short window for optimum regrowth. If ryegrass is grazed with less than two leaves, the plant suffers significantly – affecting vigour and growth. If you wait and graze with more than three leaves, the productively of the plant is compromised as lower leaves are overshadowed.

“Having a grazing system that allows you to manage this effectively will significantly influence the productivity of that grassland, allowing you to potentially double stocking rates in some cases, increasing productivity per hectare by up to 60%. It will also impact on the ongoing management of the grass crop – for example, the amount of nitrogen needed by monitoring the grazing platform.

“Electric fencing systems, if managed correctly, give the farmer a comprehensive understanding of their grasslands potential and that also helps with long term planning such as reseeding programmes.

“To get the best results, get advice, research, talk to other farmers – find out what works best and design your system. Managing an electric fencing system is a different mindset to other forms of grazing management, and its important you know how to use it effectively.

“It is important to invest in quality components. This will lead to less maintenance problems and increase the fence life-expectancy.

“It’s also worth noting several other advantages that an electric fence can offer;

They can deter predators – Natural England have carried out successful trials to determine the heights of electric wire to be used to exclude badgers from areas of your farm.

Animal safety – animals are less likely to damage an electric fence as they usually don’t touch it more than once which reduces maintenance.

Can be moved quickly and easily

“If you are near a footpath it is important to display warning signs on all electric fences and it is recommended to discuss any electric fence erection near a public right-of-way with the local authority.

“However, as we go into summer, with pressure on farm gate prices, I strongly urge farmers to consider electric fencing to maximise grass productivity, which will result in an increased efficiency of milk production or growth rates.”