Westonfence preserves green pick for cattle
On their combined 648 hectares (1,600 acres), Alan Wenham and his brother used to feed about 2,000 kangaroos on what was originally their grandfather’s property.
In 1989, Alan and his wife Sharon took over half the property at Pratten in the Queensland Southern Downs Region, and with some help from their family, run grass-fed Angus on the trap rock country.
“Originally it was sheep country, but they gave up years ago because the dogs just dragged them out,” Alan says. “We turn the calves straight off the cows at about 230-250 kilograms. If the conditions are right and we can get the right cattle, then we’ll buy cows that are calving, and calve them to sell them again; if not, we have our base of 50 breeders and just work from there.”
Keeping out 2,000 roos
However, growing ever tired of feeding so many mouths for no return, the Wenhams looked around for an option to use as boundary fencing.
“This place is very difficult to fence in spots because it’s so hilly. It actually had an old netting fence around it, and from what we could work out the fence had had it when my mum was a teenager — well, she’s 85 now!
“My original idea was to put netting, or something similar, around the boundary. We looked at a lot of things. We wanted something that was going to exclude mainly the roos, because they were just driving us mad. The problem is, the back portion is hilly country, so you’re going up, down and over lots of gullies. Of course, to put a netting fence up over that is difficult to tension properly, because if you pull it over the top of a hill you have the top part pulled really tight yet the bottom part’s loose.
“We had a contractor in to do the work, and when we were first talking he told us about the Westonfence. We had a look at it and decided it was the way to go. He’d never put one up before, but had seen something that Gallagher had done and thought it would be a really good option.”
After watching a couple of videos, they understood the mechanics behind constructing a Westonfence. “We worked out a few tricks to put it up in hilly country and then once we knew how to go about it, it went up really well.”
The Wenhams used the 10-wire D10, with standard spacings of steel posts at 10 metres and Insulated Suspension Posts (ISPs) at 3.3m.
Cost-effective future capacity
“We didn’t have to go with that D10 to keep roos out, but we started looking at the extra cost and we thought later on down the track you can run sheep or anything you wanted. We probably could have put in eight wires [D8] or seven [D7] to stop the roos effectively, but you weren’t up for that much extra cost with this fencing, so we decided on the 10 wires.
“Besides, this is all dog country and the D10 will keep dogs out. We don't lose calves to dogs, that we have seen as some people do around here, but half thought about putting goats in a paddock where it’s timbered country just to keep the saplings down. That would have been a lost cause before, because the dogs would have got them, so that’s why I decided to go with the D10 and block out as much as we could.”
The Wenhams are powering the fence with a Gallagher i Series 5800i energizer running on 240W solar because there’s no power on the property, and are finding there’s plenty of performance in the fence.
“The energizer is putting out 9,000 volts at one end and flicking between 12,000 and 14,000 at the end of a five-kilometre fence. I’ve never had big energisers like that before, but that ‘bounce back’ is what they do. I haven’t touched it, but it’s telling me there’s plenty of power there!”
As with choosing to run the highest number of wires, Alan also chose the largest energizer suitable for the job, giving future potential expansion. So far, they’re using the Westonfence as boundary fencing around 259.2ha (640 acres) of the property.
“We had to start somewhere; that was the worst fence and probably the best part of the property.”
While they only constructed the fence in December 2016, already they’re seeing benefits.
“Once you get to the end of March, you don’t get a lot of growth. But even in early August we noticed paddocks with more feed in them. There was still short green pick, which is unusual at that time of the year — we only had a bit of rain and the roos have just normally flogged it down. Because the cows were starting to calve, we still fed a supplementary molasses mix and the cattle are coming through winter really well and were in good order. We’ve gone from feeding 2,000 roos to there hardly being any.”