Those Unexpected Vacations for Cattle
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
I wish I could have written this yesterday, but the day just went by so quickly. Yesterday was one of those day where you wake up with opportunity to take the knowledge God blessed you with and try and pass it on to others. Shortly after we started our morning, I got a distressed message from a repeat customer. Both heifers had gotten out of the fence and had made it down the busy road and was camping out at the local high school! I’m writing this because I want to let y’all know, this happens to the best of us. If you have livestock, at some point you, will have to deal with a situation in which at least one of them will get out. In the moment, the situation is extremely stressful! The overwhelming range of feelings is completely normal!!
The customer was able to get a local cattle man to trailer the girls and bring them home, but in the heat of the moment both she and her husband were immediately considering rehoming them. After wrapping up milking and the remainder of the morning chores, my husband and I decided the best thing to do was to get in the truck and drive down to see what we could do to help them. They live about 2 hours south of us, but we knew there was no other decision to be made in that moment, but to go. The girls were safe in the barn when we got there, so we sat down and discussed a few options for additional fencing and additional treats and training.
We had severe thunderstorms moving through yesterday morning as well, so when the rain let up some, we walked the fence lines to see where we thought the girls may have gotten through. There were a few places that may have been iffy, but we couldn’t find any real evidence of where the girls went through. There was one place that looked like something significant could be coming under the fence. There was also a pasture on the other side of the questionable fencing with no real evidence the girls had been in there (no tracks, cow poop, etc.). We were a little stumped.
Cattle usually go through fence for two reasons. They are either bullied or chased through, or they are looking for something feed or mineral related they are missing. On the way back out of the pasture, the hole under the one panel of fence struck me again. My instinct is something was coming through that fence and chasing them, and they went through the fence to escape. It’s the explanation that makes the most sense because for the short length of time they were out, if it were food the girls were after, they would have been content in the pasture next door for a period of time. If they were being chased, they would have blazed right through that pasture which it appeared they had.
We spent a little more time discussing fencing options and spent some time with the girls in the barn on the way out. They are gorgeous and still extremely loving. They looked full and content, which again just leads me to stress as to the reason for the early morning "vacation". The older heifer is getting a little swollen in the back and is right over a year old, so we did advise to start watching for her heat cycle. We believe we left them with a pretty good plan moving forward and came home with everyone feeling much better than we left feeling that morning.
I will update this post in the morning with links for everything we recommended. Right now, it’s sleepy time. Please, please remember don’t make decisions in the heat of the emotions. You will regret giving up on them in the heat of the moment!
Cattle like an other livestock often need trained to a fence. If you find yourself with an animal that isn't respecting the pasture fence, move them to a smaller area (or a smaller area within the existing fence) and put up a hot fence. The fence can be temporary. The charger MUST be have sufficient joules to hold a strong enough current to train them to the fence. This is one lesson we have learned the hard way ... many, many chargers later. Below are links to what we ultimately now use and recommend. You may find it cheaper at other places occasionally. These links are just to show the products we use:
1) The charger: https://www.farmandfleet.com/products/471271-zareba-200-mile-ac-electric-fence-energizer.html The joules are what is important. Not the mileage. Tractor Supply also carries this charger, but it's often more expensive.
2) Moveable fence posts: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/sunguard-ii-3-8-in-fiberglass-step-in-post?cm_vc=-10005 We find these hold up better than the colored plastic ones.
3) Electric Fence Wire: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/american-farmworks-powerwire-1320-ft?cm_vc=-10005 You'll need at least 3 rows of wire to start off with. If you use the above poles, the clips are placed at appropriate heights.
4) Grounding Rods: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/american-farmworks-powerwire-1320-ft?cm_vc=-10005 At least two should be put down and 10 feet apart.
5) Grounding Rod Clamps: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/zareba-ground-rod-clamp?cm_vc=-10005
6) Connecting Cable: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/american-farmworks-underground-cable-50-ft?cm_vc=-10005