Easy-to-use Westonfence allows planned 80% stocking increase


Replacing fencing will allow Peter Robertson to nearly double the number of cattle on one property. Pete manages Spring Hill Angus in New South Wales for the Probert family. The business is spread across 185.5 hectares (458 acres) at Mittagong, which has been in the family since 1965, and 404ha (1,000 acres) some 130 kilometres south-west at Lake Bathurst, which the Proberts bought in 2013.

Pete says, “With our Lake Bathurst farm, we’re aiming for calves at nine months old, straight off their mothers at around 400 kilograms, and into the vealer job for high-end butcher shops; we also sell into feedlots, and, from there, export markets as well. This year we’ll calve down 380 cows, ranging from first-calf heifers through to eight-year-old cows. We run the stud at Mittagong, and this year will calve down 100 breeders, that’s first-calf heifers right through to seven-year-old cows.”

Pete says dilapidated fencing at Lake Bathurst was hampering production.

“We began re-fencing around mid June and we’ll finish it by Christmas time — it will be about 39km in all. That’s our priority to fence because I think it will improve our productivity by pretty close to 100% — we’re certainly working on running 80% more cows by doing this.”

Only positives

The fencing style they chose was Westonfence, for both feral exclusion and internal subdivision.

“We went to a couple of field days and also actually saw it in use. I saw a lot of pros out of it, but no cons. The pros included things like not getting any barbwire damaging hides, which is especially important on the stud side.

“Westonfence just seemed like a fantastic product; easy to put up, and we could do it all ourselves — which is exactly the way it turned out: it was an easy product to use and easy to get our heads around to implement on the farm.”

Improved pasture use through strip grazing

“We can see going forward that it’s going to help us manage our pastures a lot better because we can start doing things, especially at Lake Bathurst, such as strip grazing, not letting cows go in and just pick exactly what they want to eat, but making them eat every part of that pasture.”

Lake Bathurst has 40.5ha (100-acre) paddocks, which Pete reduces to 4.5ha (10 acres) at a time with strip grazing, using Gallagher temporary electric fencing.

“I started here 12 months ago and implemented strip grazing within my first three months. At Mittagong especially, it’s easy to implement. We had quite a bit of feed come on pretty quickly, and the strip grazing gave us much better use of the pasture. I firmly believe in strip grazing and rotational grazing – it proved its worth last year and this second year will certainly prove what we’re doing. I think if we’re willing to put the money into grass and fertiliser — as we've done — then we’ve got to manage it correctly.”

Pete says while moving a fence every couple of days can be a bit labour intensive, the resulting productivity is worth it. “We’ve got cows ready to calve in three weeks and they look fantastic.”

Speedy fencing

Spring Hill chose to use the seven-wire D7 Westonfence at the recommended spacings of steel posts at 10 metres and Insulated Suspension Posts (ISPs) at 3.3m.

“The pros I saw in how easy it was to put together then flowed into the speed we could put it up. When we started, we put up 9km in 11 days. It was very good, very easy, it made life stress-free.”

Spring Hill Angus is using four i Series Gallagher energizers to power the fencing: two M5800i’s and two M2800i’s.

“Even those ‘little’ ones are running quite big fences. Most of our Lake Bathurst fencing at the moment is running at 13,000 volts on the device. I’ve never seen a fence run at 13 before in my life! It’s fairly impressive.”

Simplified management

Pete says day-to-day, the entire fencing system — including a System Data Controller, Remote & Fault Finder — has made a massive improvement and greatly simplified management

“We get to the shed at 7 o’clock in the morning. One of our high priorities first thing is to check the fencing, so if there’s a problem, we go out and fix it. Now, I get a text message every morning that tells me how the fences are running, and if there are any faults or earth problems. So by 8 o’clock, we know how the fences are running and what we’re doing.

“We can go to the System Data Controller box, and it tells us which section of the fence has a problem so we know exactly where to go. It just cuts down time chasing faults in one isolated area as opposed to throughout the whole farm.”

Other management tools on Spring Hill Angus include a Livestock Manager TSi, HR5 Hand Held EID Tag Reader & Data Collector and Gallagher Wireless Water Monitoring System (WWMS).

“All of these are management tools for the farm; each has its own specifics and they make my job a lot easier. For instance, I can go to my TSi and find out exactly where each cow is, what’s been done, when it’s been done and how it’s been done. I can walk into the shed and tell that my tanks on the hill are sitting at 90% full, and I don’t have a problem with the pump. I can go to my electric fences and they’re all up and running as they should be. It’s a half-an-hour job and I’ve got everything checked off as far as that management side of it goes.”

Advice

Pete spoke to many people in researching improved management tools for the business.

“When Gallagher came out, they saw our situation and made recommendations. I think when people with that sort of experience make recommendations, you’ve got to take those on board. It’s certainly something that’s worked very well for us.”

On the fencing side, Spring Hill Angus has seen fox and other feral animal numbers plummet.

“It’s also dramatically reduced the kangaroos coming onto the farm at Lake Bathurst. At Mittagong, a lot of fencing was done over the past five years, so as those run down then we will replace them with Westonfence. But what we’re also doing at Mittagong is implementing new 45-degree fences on our existing fences, which, in conjunction with the Westonfence that we’ve already put in, has dramatically dropped the number of kangaroos there too. Nothing will keep everything out, but I think once we get the whole farm done with Westonfence we’ll see next to no kangaroos.

“For me, I think the best thing that anyone can do is to get a specialist out to have a look. Whether it’s just a bit of advice, or to actually implement something, I think getting Gallagher out is well worth it.”

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