Supposedly, it's possible to fence-line wean calves by separating the cows and calves with something like a woven-wire or electric fence so that they can still see each each other, touch noses, etc. which lowers the stress levels of both cow and calf, but the calf can't nurse anymore. In the past, I've been able to wean my calves doing just that, using the woven-wire fence around the weaning pen as the fence part in the fence-line weaning process. But it can be a hit-or-miss process in some years, when the calves try to crawl through gates, or the cows decide to bawl at the calves which causes the calves to start bawling, etc. So a few years ago, I just started building an electric fence about two-hundred feet away from the weaning pen to keep the cows a little bit farther away which seems to be a little bit less stressful on the cows, calves, and me.
|Weaned calves in the weaning pen|
It's not a complicated process to build an electric fence, so most of the info is in these photos (click on them to get a closer look).
When I build a temporary or semi-permanent fence I usually use simple rebar posts that I've modified to be step-in rebar posts. For whatever reason (probably due to the type of clay soil around here) the ground can be hard to get something like a normal step-in post (either the plastic ones or the pigtail type) into the ground, so I've always used rebar posts (the 4-ft. kind with the plate). Once those rebar posts are pounded into the ground, they can also be a bear to get back out of the ground whenever it comes time to take the fence down a few days, weeks, or months later.
A few years ago, I took some of those rebar posts, knocked off the plates that were still on some of the posts (they always seem to fall off or get left in the ground when you pull them), and welded a step made out of a 3" piece of rebar on each one of them.
|Modified step-in rebar post next to an original post, make sure the fence is turned off if you ever ask your posts to pose for a photo while they're leaning on the fence|
After I put in my posts, I install the wire. I've always used 14 ga. steel wire for temporary/semi-permanent electric fences like this instead of the typical polywire usually advocated by most people. I've usually used steel wire because my thoughts are that the wind is always blowing here and polywire blowing back and forth in the wind might wear through the filaments in the polywire pretty quick (I'm not sure if that's true, but that's my theory). I also sometimes run longer (up to 2000 ft.) electric fences across wheat fields, and a 14 ga. steel wire is easier to keep hot over a distance that long compared to polywire. I also already had a bunch of 14 ga. steel wire before I had ever even heard of polywire, which is one of the main reasons I use wire instead of polywire.
I store all my wire on some cheap electric cord reels (they cost about $4 each?). As long as I don't overload them with too much wire, they aren't overly heavy, I can tie one end to an insulator, then just start walking and the wire will roll off of the reel while still staying reasonably tight.
|Tied off insulator (ignore those weeds)|
|Cheap electric cord reel repurposed as an electric fence wire reel|
|T-post with 2" PVC - corner post and/or gate post|
|Permanent electric fence with a gate loop on the wire|
Like I said, building electric fence isn't rocket surgery, but the easier and quicker it is to build electric fences, the better it is. Any questions, suggestions, criticisms, or ideas about building electric fences?