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Fencing technology crucial to beef farm’s unique rotational grazing system

Thursday, 10 November, 2022

Across 475 hectares of some of New Zealand’s most scenic farmland in mid-Canterbury, a beef farming operation is successfully being run on a tight rotational grazing system, similar to a dairy farm.

A permanent electric fencing solution from Gallagher has been key to making it happen. The property is known as Glenview and is owned by former Anzco Foods founder Sir Graeme Harrison. Sir Graeme’s total farm area in the mid-Canterbury region covers over 2,300 hectares and encompasses properties at Mt Alford, Pudding Hill and Highbank. The most recent addition is Glenview, where the farm has been completely overhauled with a new fencing system from Gallagher. Farm manager Jack Dwyer says the fencing solution allows them to run a sharp rotational grazing system on the Glenview property, like that found on most New Zealand dairy farms.

“It is an intensive operation, so we want to make it pay for itself,” says Jack. “To help us manage our animals effectively, we tore out almost all the fencing and re-fenced more than 60kms of the property using Gallagher’s electric fencing solution, including powering it up with Gallagher energizers.” Each paddock is about eight hectares in size, divided in the middle with a two-wire fence. This allows sheep to go underneath, but cattle to be effectively managed. There are water troughs one quarter and three quarters along the two-wire fence. It means each four-hectare half can be split into four one hectare or eight half hectare grazing strips.

“This set up means we can run short sharp rotational grazing where we get mobs of 40 to 50 cattle doing a 24-day rotation in one eight-hectare paddock if the growth is adequate,” says Jack. As the grazing rotation continues into summer, lambs are brought into the system and replace cattle in some paddocks. Mobs of between 800 and 1,400 lambs follow in the rotation and are given the full eight hectares to graze out.

“It’s been a system of trial and error. We’ve spent the last few years figuring out what works and what doesn’t, but the Gallagher system and gear has been absolutely key to helping us manage feed and maximise animal productivity,” says Jack. “The system also allows us to easily drop out halves of paddocks to be cut for supplementary feed.” A similar fencing set-up has also been recently installed at the Highbank property, which also grows supplementary feed for the rest of the operation.

Across all the farms, the operation runs a total of 2,700 Perrindale ewes, with plans to lift that number to about 4,000 over the next couple of years. They calved 500 Angus cows this season and last season raised 240 Angus steers to Five Star Beef and finished 830 Friesian bulls, and 4000 lambs, with hopes to see those numbers rise in the next few seasons. “It is a complex operation, but our Gallagher fencing solution gives us the peace of mind we need. We can use the technology as much or as little as we want to help us run an efficient and productive farm business.”

Jack and his team use an M10,000i and an M6000i energizer on Glenview, a M10,000i at Pudding Hill and an M10,000i at Mt Alford. They use Gallagher’s Ag Devices App to make sure everything runs smoothly, and stock are kept safe and where they should be. “The Ag Devices App allows us to see when the amps are coming off and you can see what’s normal and what’s not. It will throw up an alarm when there is a fault and if the power falls below a set level. Because the farm is divided into blocks you can use Fence Monitors to isolate and find the faults within 10 minutes, which is crucial for the size of the operation we’re running,” says Jack.

Jack says the Gallagher system also enables them to better manage cattle in the small rotational grazing areas. “When you have large numbers of cattle like we have and are running a tight rotational grazing system, we need to know the mobs stay where we put them. Gallagher’s electric fencing solutions are helping us do that.”