12 June 1998

Make gateways wide as tracks for starters…

New gadgets for electric

fences could make access

to pasture easier for stock

and stockmen alike.

Simon Wragg reports

ERECTING a gateway into an electric fence to allow stock access to grazing need not be a headache and could avoid having to drop it to the ground, which some producers and consultants consider counter-productive when training stock to respect electric fencing.

Ireland-based NZ grazing consultant Leonie Foster suggests it is simple to install gateways into electric fencing at relatively low cost. The principal concern should be to ensure gateways are at least as wide as the track they open off. "This will help maintain the flow of stock," she says.

Although producers favour the spring gate – an insulated handle with a sprung coil of wire which stretches across a gateway – John Frizzell of Bristol based McArthur Cyclone Fencing says there are many options.

Aside from the spring gate, costing about £10, producers can opt for a permanently electrified gate which vehicles can push through, without the need to physically open it, for about £50-£60, he says.

But some gates are only suited to certain livestock species, he adds. The rigid plastic gates which can be driven through are suited to both cattle and sheep. But gates with individual horizontal bars suspended from a gatepost are usually only suited to cattle, as sheep could walk under or through them, says Mr Frizzell.

Wherever possible, ensure gateways are ringed to avoid breaking the fencing circuit when a gate is opened, adds Ms Foster.

Ringing is simple, suggests Gallagher Fencings John Ellis, requiring a length of similar gauge insulated wire and two connectors. For permanent fencing he recommends digging a channel 24in deep below the gateway for the electric wire and passing it through plastic piping for protection.

Gateways in temporary fencing can also be ringed by digging a shallow channel for an insulated wire or suspending it overhead, remembering to allow sufficient head height for cattle and/or farm vehicles to pass through.

To ensure all the fence remains electrified, put the gateway at the end of the powerline, furthest away from the power source, suggests Tiverton-based dairy producer Cedric Watkinson, "You do not suffer any loss of power that way," he says.

An alternative to ringing gateways is incorporating a battery-operated power-pack, some models of which can be suspended on the electric wire itself, to the side of the gateway from which power is lost when the gate is opened. Prices start at £15, says Mr Frizzell.

Rigid plastic gates are suitable for sheep and cattle but sheep will escape where gates with individual horizontal bars are used, warns John Frizzell.