Life-changing Gallagher Energizer stops dogs, gives 4 extra hours a day
For Grant and Tracey Hutchings, the extra four hours a day they have gained from their Gallagher M5800i Energizer isn’t the only benefit. They also count no genetic nor financial losses, plus the lack of distress and the ability to go away, as major victories.
The couple, who both work full-time off farm, run the 484-hectare (1,195-acre) operation at Tenterfield in the NSW New England region for Grant’s mother, Monica – who also remains very involved.
“Eventine” breeds Angus and Angus-Hereford cross cattle, running 220 breeders, plus has a Kelpie and a Dorper stud.
Grant says, “We used to have 550 Merinos, but after my father passed away, it become too hard to manage working full-time, with flystrike and other issues that Merinos can face.”
The other issue was wild dogs.
“It was 25 years ago and I was still at school; they’d come and attack so we’d lock the sheep up for three months and then let them out again. We might have an attack once every 12 months or something, but in the last 15 years we locked up nearly every night. But we were still losing sheep: they’d kill during the middle of the day. It was terrible.”
It was Monica’s job to yard the sheep every night, then let them out in the morning. She says, “Back in the early days, they’d kill eight or 10 of a night and maul a lot more.
“I’m pretty good at sewing them up…” She says it was also highly distressing.
To keep the sheep safer, it meant Monica — or someone — needed to be on-farm every night and every morning.
Move into Dorpers
The Hutchings family finally opted out of Merinos around 2006, and began with Dorpers.
Grant says, “We always had a few cross-breed sheep as well, but because we were scaling back we decided to try a stud with the Dorpers to offset lower numbers by breeding and selling a few rams.
“A lot of the paddocks we used to have we can’t fence out because of major floodways going through them, so we’ve had to cut back sheep numbers to better manage them.”
However, the issue with wild dogs continued to have a large impact: despite yarding sheep nightly, one year they lost a quarter of their flock.
“That’s just not viable: the loss is the genetics as well as the money — and emotionally, it is distressing.”
Tracey and Monica have both commented they were “sick of crying” over sheep that were mauled and killed by wild dogs.
Future-proofed powerful protection
Grant says, “At the moment, we’re down to about 150 stud Dorpers, just because of the dog problems we’ve had.”
But it’s a number they’ve been slowly lifting with the protection of electrified boundary fencing.
In 2016 they began using Gallagher Offsets, retrofitted onto the existing fence which is in good condition. It was an economical, yet highly effective, solution that was also easy to install. The fencing is powered by a Gallagher M5800i Energizer.
“We went that way on the Gallagher Territory Manager’s recommendation. For the area, we looked at a smaller unit but they explained why the smaller unit wasn’t going to cut it. So we decided on the M5800i – it’s overkill for now, but if we want to do more and subdivide then it’s future-proofed itself, and we won’t have to upgrade that unit.
The family also installed the i Series Fence Monitor that comes with the Gallagher M5800i Energizer, as well as adding two more. The system is set up to alert Grant (via smartphone) 24 hours a day if it falls outside their custom-set parameters.
“So it’s cheap labour for that; you’re not going to pay anyone to sit outside and watch the fence all night!”
It also directs him to the section with the fault. If there’s an issue when Grant is off farm, he can simply direct Monica or Tracey, who then use the i Series Energizer Remote and Fault Finder to pinpoint the issue.
Tracey says so far, the only two issues have been one single cracked insulator and a “kamikaze frog”.
Back-up service key
Being “pedantic about that sort of stuff”, Grant looked around at all the electric fencing suppliers, to compare products, price and service before heading down the Gallagher M5800i Energizer and Offset path.
“We’ve had another, smaller Gallagher unit, so probably the thing that got me sold me on Gallagher was the territory manager would come out to give you a hand. Even if it turned out you just didn’t read the manual properly, it was still not a problem for them to come out to show you ‘you’re just doing that little thing wrong’ … and then everything’s right. That backup service is really good.”
Grant says electrifying existing fencing with Offsets and the Gallagher M5800i Energizer has had a large impact on the day-to-day management of the business.
“It gives us about four hours extra in our day."
“Before, every afternoon you’d be locking sheep up for the night. In the winter time that would be about half-past-three. Then at 8 o’clock the next morning, you’d have to go and take sheep back to their original paddocks.”
But locking the sheep away safely in yards and quarter-acre paddocks around the shearing sheds created its own problems.
“Having sheep locked in little grassy paddocks every night caused issues with worms. In winter it could be 16 hours, so productivity was way down."
“But now we’re not doing that any more we’ve noticed a huge improvement in productivity: the sheep are just in top condition nearly all the time now. The worm issue has reduced dramatically.”
Grant says the fourth major benefit is time off.
“We can all go away on a holiday now. We just couldn't even think of doing that before.”
And the fence has exceeded their expectations.
“We installed it not to stop 100% of the dogs, but if we could stop 95%, we were happy with that. But so far it’s 100%, and there have been dogs seen within 100 metres of our boundary just recently. We still do worry about it because of what we’ve gone through, but we don’t have the financial, time or genetic losses now — and neither do we have the distress of mauled animals.”
The Hutchings family are so pleased with the fence, that in April “Eventine” held a highly successful Gallagher Electric Fencing Showcase day.
Grant says, “The Territory Manager had seen our setup when I asked a question with something else. We had quite a lot of people here on the day — some from a couple of hours away — interested in the way we’d done the exclusion fence to handle to the dog issue.”
Internal fence benefits
“In terms of the fence, primarily it was an exclusion fence for dogs but it has stopped our sheep pushing through other fences as well, so it’s also helping in management with the sheep.
“Dorpers are pretty hard on fences, whether it’s going underneath them or through them, or rubbing wool off on them and wrecking your fences. Where we put up an electric wall, that stopped instantly. Overnight. So that’s a cost saving there too, you’re not replacing fences all the time due to the sheep rubbing on them and wrecking them.
“I like this Gallagher system — and the backup service — so much, I’m going to install it on our other block now too. That will be solar job out there, which will be good.”