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Electric feral fence boosts hay production 4-fold - eliminates pigs

Hungry, worm-ridden kangaroos in large numbers make a significant dent in feed and water that was originally destined for sheep. Add to that the issues that feral pigs create when rooting up the ground and it was time for an electric fencing solution.

Feeling the effects of up to 1,700 kangaroos in a 1,620-hectare paddock was the impetus for Shane and Jodi Axford to investigate feral fencing.

Shane says, “We needed to vermin proof the irrigation block, so the kangaroos didn’t come in and eat all our crops and pastures, and also to stop the feral pigs coming in and rooting up the ground.

“Last year the roos were ridiculously thick. There were 1,500 to 1,700 in 4,000-acre [1,620ha] paddocks. And they were just poor, hungry and full of worms.

“Large roos are about 0.6 of a dry sheep equivalent, and the medium-sized ones are about three-quarters of that. That’s a lot of extra water, a lot of extra mouths. It was a big problem.”

On the pulse

So Shane researched electric fencing and came up with the Gallagher MBS2800i Energizer.

“It’s great because it’s 240 mains, as well as having a solar kit. But the other thing is the pulse. I put quite a bit of research into the type and amount of pulse, and the Gallagher one, to me, was ahead of all the rest.”

Shane and Jodi set up an initial five kilometres of electric fencing around their irrigated paddocks.

“The initial purpose was to keep our hay safe. They say that roos don’t eat sorghum, but when it’s that dry — like now — they’ll eat anything, especially when it’s small."

“If we didn’t have a fence, we wouldn’t be able to bale any hay because our crop wouldn’t be able to get ahead of the kangaroos. We just couldn’t afford lose all that productivity.”

The 1,370mm tall (four foot, six inch) fence uses a prefabricated netting. With no internal stock pressure, there are two hot wires on the external side: one is 25.4mm (10”) off the ground, and the other sits between the barbwire and the netting, both using 200mm Gallagher Live Tip Offsets. The steel posts are 10 metres apart.

Electric fencing gives better protection

Shane says they chose electric fencing over conventional because it could keep out the kangaroos.

“The roos would have just kept hammering and hammering the conventional fence until they went through and busted it. 

“In fact, when we were in the process of building it, they wrecked 200 metres before we got the electricity to it, trying to get back into the sorghum block. So electrifying it as we went was the only way we could stop the roos punching their way through.”

Shane and Jodi bought their current property three years ago. Wanting to maximise productivity, they knew they would need a good strategy against feral animals.

“We put the fence in just over a year ago. We had a crop of oats in, but I knew there was no way in the world we could set up irrigation here without fencing it. And you can’t stop roos and pigs without the electricity.”

Getting on with work

Shane says the impact of the fence on his day-to-day management of the property has been huge.

“I just don’t have to worry about roos on the irrigation block. It’s a lot less stress and we can actually get a return for all our work! So that’s the big benefit. And we’re cutting 20 to 23 four-by-three round bales an acre, as opposed to probably five to 10, if we were lucky before the fence."

“Since we put the fence up a year ago, we haven’t had a single pig on the irrigation block, and just four roos have gone over it. That’s a massive, massive difference.”

Minimal maintenance

Shane says maintenance is minimal.

“It’s so small. I put the monitor at the gate, and just read it every time I go past. It’s 15 seconds to check the indicator, a day, and then if there’s a problem it’s only 20 minutes to go around and see where it is. During the first week we had tangled wires; since then, I haven’t had any problems. It’s totally effective.”

Service is key

“I really like the Gallagher Locksets; they’re way stronger than what I’d thought they’d be. Actually when they turned up, they came with the wrong bolts, really soft bolts, which broke very easily. I rang up and it was an overnight fix. Gallagher were really good with the technical support and follow-up support; the rep was superb, we were well supported. They came and checked the fence over after I’d finished setting it all up, and had also helped me to price it up.”

Next project: wild dogs

“We’re now looking at the next project, which is to set up electric fencing for the wild dogs that are coming towards the property. Our rams are a big investment, so we’ll vermin proof those paddocks next, to make sure they're protected. And for that job, electric fencing, is the only way to go.”

“Since we put the fence up ... we haven’t had a single pig ... and just four roos have gone over it. That’s a massive, massive difference.”