You might wonder how there could be any connection between a panic attack, a post driver, and strip-grazing a field with an electric fencer, but in the world of Derek-farming they are inextricably linked.
After the drought conditions earlier this year, I overreacted (panicked) to the lack of grass by spreading around 30 units of nitrogen across much of the farm.
This was despite being fully aware that my land is “strong” and tends to release plenty of power without any bagged assistance.
After the rain returned, grass simply exploded out of the ground and grazing management went from full-on rationing to trying to control a surplus.
Cattle and sheep
In practical terms, the dairy heifers were used to take the top off a few fields before the sheep were introduced.
The problem was that one 10-acre field at the back of the farm got neglected
I realise that best farming practice would suggest baling extra grass, but unrolled fields in this area tend to make this an unfeasible proposition due to the likelihood of stones.
This system worked well, up to a point. The problem was that one 10-acre field at the back of the farm got neglected (out of sight, out of mind type of thinking), until it was nearly time for the heifers to move in that direction.
A walk into the field one evening confirmed my worst fears – it was bulky enough for a cut of silage.
I noticed a few slightly drunk-looking posts around the perimeter of the field
There was no way that throwing heifers into it was an option; they would have lain on about three acres and completely wasted it, so the choice came down to either paddocks, or strip-grazing.
I decided to strip-graze it, but this raised another issue.
I noticed a few slightly drunk-looking posts around the perimeter of the field, and considering they separated my livestock from two gardens, knew that those heifers would soon be among the marigolds unless I strengthened the fence.
The tendency to reach out over the top strand of barbed wire would surely be exacerbated by tightening them into a restricted area, so a dozen new posts were definitely needed.
However, about a week previously I had hammered in two posts along a sheugh, and the combination of hard ground and weak body had made me realise that my physical prowess nowadays is nothing short of pathetic.
Despite being a novice at operating this piece of kit, I managed to strengthen the whole boundary of the field
Using a manual post-rammer for 10 minutes left me with some sort of muscular pain that made me wonder if I was having a heart attack. Solution? Go and buy a tractor-mounted post-driver.
I am now wondering if this is the best £2,500 that money can buy? Despite being a novice at operating this piece of kit, I managed to strengthen the whole boundary of the field, although most of them seem to be leaning slightly off plumb. Perhaps I’ll get better at it.
No matter, because the upshot of this latest purchase saw me introducing the heifers to a field with a degree of confidence that would not have been possible without secure fencing.
However, this doesn’t leave any room for complacency since gates still have to be securely closed. One of these sub-contractor companies for NIE came in a few days later to work at poles, and despite assuring me that they would leave everything as found, managed to not close the gate properly.
For me, it is the satisfaction of moving the wire every morning
Having had experience of these “experts” before, I drove down the road as soon as they had left and re-applied the 15 pieces of rope that keep it shut.
The main advantage to grazing this field with an electric fencer isn’t efficient use of grass, or improved animal performance. For me, it is the satisfaction of moving the wire every morning.
Possibly my favourite farming activity has always been moving livestock on to a fresh bite. Shifting the electric fence is like moving them into a new field every single day, and I find this indescribably satisfying.