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Electric fencing enables better feed utilisation

The northern edge of the Barossa Valley is mostly sheep and cropping country, typified by big, open paddocks. But after seeing a strip-grazing trial on their neighbour’s property, David & Glenda Heinrich decided they, too, wanted to get more feed from their pastures.

David says, “Our home property at Freeling is 90% cropping, but we also run some Merinos ewes mated to White Suffolks for prime lambs, plus a few cattle. Our block at Robertstown, which is about 60 kilometres away, is in a drier area, and we only run sheep on that: Merino ewes mated to Samm Merinos.

“Our neighbour here seemed to get a lot more feed out of the paddock he strip grazed — it had much better feeding value. So we decided to try it last year.

"We cut two 22-hectare paddocks in half. In one of the new 11 hectare paddocks I sowed barley and clover, and the other barley and vetch. We then rotated 230 ewes around those four paddocks, grazing them in strip blocks."

David says the crops were only planted for pasture, not harvesting.

'Extra' grass

"The plan was to graze the ewes on it, grow the lambs out, plus bring the lambs back from Robertstown to finish them on it. And, that’s exactly what happened. Because we weren’t over stocked on the area, I cut a quarter of the strip-grazed area for hay."

"Robertstown is a fairly dry area, so we bring those lambs back here in late September. However normally we have to sell some off because we run out of feed."
Not so this year.

"On top of the 210 lambs and 210 ewes here, we brought 240 lambs down from Robertstown — we had 100% lambing there — and were able to finish them all off, without selling anything. With the strip grazing, we could actually keep the sheep on those paddocks a lot longer — we were still grazing that area into the middle of November. So we could carry our feed right through to when we had our stubble, for after weaning."

Seeing is believing

David says seeing the trial on his neighbour’s property, as well as the mini field day afterwards run by Landmark Gawler and Gallagher, made the decision to strip graze simple.

"I'd never used electric fencing before, so I was somewhat apprehensive of it, wondering if it would work, but everything certainly did work. We had no hassles."

David and Glenda set up their own paddocks with help from Landmark’s northern South Australia animal production specialist, Daniel Schuppan, and Gallagher’s territory manager for SA and Broken Hill, Matthew McLauchlan.

"We bought a B280 Energizer, because it can be powered by solar or mains. Last year, the paddocks were close to our farm base, but this year we’ll use the solar panels because the paddocks are further away. The B280 just gives us more options.”

David says it "was all pretty simple"and set up only took about an hour. "I didn't really look around because the neighbour had used it and was very happy with it and the Landmark Gawler field day was terrific."

Success

The Heinrichs' own first year was successful too, so much so, they'll "definitely" do it again this year.

"I was really happy how it actually went. We grazed the paddocks a lot more evenly, I thought. This year, we'll use different paddocks though. We have a problem with ryegrass, so instead of spraying it every year we graze it out completely every six or seven years; this is just a different option on spraying."

"In autumn, we'll sow the paddocks again, but this time to some Italian ryegrass and clover, and I'll try out Moby grazing barley."

"Strip grazing gives us another management option, and being able to bring our Robertstown lambs and finish them off, it was like having an extra mob of sheep, but we had the right feed."

The "how to"

"Gallagher's Matt McLauchlan recommended the Heinrichs use Multiwire Spring Steel Treadins (G64253) and nine-strand Turbo Wire.

"One of the issues we need to work around in South Australia is that most of the people who strip graze have quite large paddocks." So we use Turbo Wire, rather than a turbo or poly tape or braid. The Turbo Wire has quite low resistance — 130 Ohms a kilometre; it's perfect for distances over 200 metres, and the Heinrichs have 1.2km of portable fencing.

"A good way to begin is with three strands, then when the sheep are used to the fence, bring it back to two and use that third wire on another fence."

"Often we set up a wagon-wheel scenario, where you just move the sheep from one side of the water trough to the other. That gives them constant access to water, although they don't often drink because there’s so much moisture in the green crops they’re grazing."

The 2.5mm Turbo Wire comes in rolls of 400m and also fits neatly onto Geared Maxi reels.

David Heinrich says, "We use geared reels when we wound up the fencing at the end of the season, and they worked really well. It's all there ready for this year now: we'll just unwind it and off we go."

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