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Electronet fencing


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Once I finally get my sheep (6-12 Shetlands), I would like to use electronet fencing to have them move around my fields. What size area would I need to fence for 6-12 sheep to be comfortable? I would move them to the secure fenced area at night and use the electronet area during the day.

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The joy of electronet is that it's easily moved. When the grass is really growing here, I'll put 8 sheep in an area one 164' long net on each side. That lasts them about 4 days before I move them to the next paddock.


The size of area you have will depend on the grass & growing conditions, how often you are able to move the fence, etc.

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The other thing you need to consider is what are your goals with your grazing program? Are you going to try to get the best performance per acre, the best performance per animal, or try split the difference? Or are you just looking to maintain a few sheep to train your dogs and put a lamb or two in the freezer?


The basic rule of thumb that I try to follow is that the sheep should be moved no less often than every three days, but they should need to be moved when they're moved. In other words, they should be finished grazing what forage is available in their enclosure before they're moved, but if you wait more than three or four days at the very outside, they are going to be grazing regrowth, which will be harmful to the plants and give weeds a chance to get started.


So you start out with the sheep in a given area -- let's use Ben's example of a 1-net square -- and you monitor the grazing progress. If after three days they're still swimming in feed, you need to make your next paddock smaller. If they run out of feed sooner than three days, then that's fine as long as you have time to move them more often.


If you can set up your electronet so that you have a good charge on it (>2.5 Kv) and little or no sagging, there's no reason to put the sheep up at night. Electronet is probably the effective predator deterrent fence I've ever worked with, provided that the sheep stay in it. Some of this is training, and some is proper installation. Sheep will do a lot of grazing in the night, especially in the summer when it's hot during the day. Turning empty sheep out into a dew-moistened field puts them at risk for bloat if there's clover or alfalfa in the mix.

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I use electronet both within "traditional" fencing (as pasture partitions) and exclusively. I have found that a 4-electronet square will typically hold 80 +/- sheep and their lambs for 24 hours. Like Bill wrote, the key is to note, and rotate according to, your sheep's needs (my sheep will not eat (waste) grass that's stomped down, so I usually go with smaller paddocks and 1-2 day rotations) and not allow bad habits to develop.


Keep the fence hot, in good repair and well grounded (buy a good charger and have backup batteries, assuming you use them, ready to go); don't push the sheep too much (better to error by rotating too fast than too slow); and, if you have wool sheep, get them shorn as early as is possible in your climate (so that they get shocked when they touch the fence). Get rid of lambs (sheep) that breach the fence as quickly as possible because others will follow.


I like the fencing that has a ground wire running along the bottom (seems to pack a better charge) - but a good friend with a larger operation doesn't find it as helpful as I do. Over the years, I've found that using corner posts (and occasionally line posts when the ground is wet, as our's often is) help to keep the fence intact. Also, straight, non-sagging (fence) lines seem "stronger" than meandering (some places you graze will require jigs and jags). I use a weed eater with a blade to clear a perimeter when the grass is high or when the field is too brushy.


All-in-all, it takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to move the sheep, including perimeter cutting, water set up, etc. I'm sure there are other things I do but can't think of them right now (we're not grazing yet and probably won't be for at least another month).




P.S. In re-reading your original post, I think I'd initially order 3 lengths of fencing (you'll get so that you know how to lay this out). Then you can go with a two or three length rectangle depending upon the conditions. It's nice to have an extra length so that you have 2 sides set up to hold the sheep in while you move the other sections. What I mean is that I'll often set up a corner of the new paddock while the sheep are in the old, and then move them into the new while I disassemble the unused sides of the old paddock. Since the sheep and lambs are in "good" grass, they put less pressure on the dogs.

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