Final report for ES19-146
Electric fencing technology is critical to the adoption of adaptive grazing management for livestock species, and for incorporation of livestock into integrated cropping and horticultural systems. Adaptive grazing management uses a variety of grazing techniques in a dynamic management approach, which when effectively employed decreases erosion, encourages deeper plant rooting to improve drought resilience, improves plant species diversity, and improves water quality. However, lack of understanding of how to maintain a high level of power on electric fences, troubleshoot fencing problems, and effectively using temporary electric fences has limited adoption, and in some cases, caused farmers to abandon adaptive grazing management. North Carolina State University led a team including NC, VA, SC, GA, AL and KY to conduct electric fence training for extension agents and other farmer advisors. The goal was to teach farm advisors how to teach farmers to effectively adopt and manage electric fence technology through a one-day hands-on course. A uniform training curriculum was developed, training sessions were planned in each state and "a temporary fence demonstration kit" was constructed for each state which is now available to the trained advisors to conduct subsequent farmer trainings. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic all scheduled workshops had to be cancelled, and we modified our approach to still achieve the goals of the project. In Virginia the fence education was provided as part of a Graze300 program. Training for advisors in SC, GA, and AL was conducted as part of a 2-day training on forage management. In Kentucky we did conduct two full day sessions in Western and Eastern Kentucky. At all trainings participants learned the main components needed to successfully install and maintain electric fences, how to utilize this technology to improve grazing management and how to troubleshoot issues associated with electric fences. A total of 207 advisors and trainers participated in the training program. Temporary fence demonstration kits are being used in all six states to conduct producer education by the project participants.
- Develop a clear understanding of how electric fences work and how to approach electric fence troubleshooting.
- Become familiar with the wide variety of permanent and temporary fencing technology available and its importance in adaptive grazing management.
- Learn how to conduct an effective training session on managing and troubleshooting electric fences for farmers by using the provided training materials and training kit.
The goal of the project is to improve the temporary electric fence management skills of extension agents, conservationists and other advisors working with pasture-based livestock producers. We are working with a team of extension specialists in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Virginia to deliver a consistent message across the region. Training kits have been developed which include all major temporary electric fence accessories including a variety of posts, reels, wires, energizers and miscellaneous accessories. These kits were packed into "job site boxes" and zipper golf bags so that all the items needed are handy and organized. These kits were transported to the cooperating states to be used in advisor training sessions, and they were left with state beef or forage extension specialists for future producer training sessions in each state.
In 2019, a meeting with electric fencing industry representatives took place on June 27 to ensure they were committed to supplying necessary electric fence equipment for our training kits and were comfortable being a part of the in-person training. We were happy to have both Gallagher Inc., and Pasture Management Systems, Inc. agree to support our program as they are the two major sources of electric fencing materials in the southeastern US. Further, both companies committed to giving our group discounted pricing for all electric fencing materials purchased for the training. On August 16, 2019, our group held our first virtual meeting. States represented during the meeting were Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. During our meeting we identified farms and/or university locations that could host our training in each state. Further, we identified potential dates that would work for each state. A Google drive account was created for the curation of educational materials needed for the training. Finally, the group started a list of items needed for the training kits that would be used during the hands-on portion of the training. Action items to complete for the next meeting were to:
- Finalize training dates for each state.
- compile educational materials for each state.
- Finalize training kits to order items.
- Build an agenda and promotional flyer to distribute to states for advertising
Our group held a second virtual meeting on January 10, 2020 in which we confirmed training sites and dates, approved items to be ordered for the training kits, approved agenda and promotional flyer, and completed the curation of educational materials to one single Google drive account. All states involved in the training were present during this meeting. On March 3. 2020, 6 training kits were built in Raleigh, NC by the North Carolina project leader and graduate students. Items in the kits will provide a great opportunity for participants of the training and the eventual farmers to be exposed to the majority of tools used and needed to be successful in using electric fencing as a tool for better grazing management. All these teaching supplies are packed in hard shell transportation cases (for small and compact items including energizers, reels, accessories) and zipper golf bags (for posts, ground rods, etc). These kits were subsequently taken to each state for the advisor training sessions and then left for them to use in future farmer trainings.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic started shortly after we finished building the educational kits, and all our training sessions were cancelled due to a general travel ban by the universities and other governmental agencies. Participants in all the states pivoted and created on-line training on many subjects, but as we met to discuss this project we decided to wait until a time when we could have in person hands-on activities. As the pandemic dragged on the training kits gathered dust and other activities that had been cancelled and rescheduled were cancelled and rescheduled when new waves of Covid-19 variants appeared. To meet the educational objectives of this project we began to creatively combine our fence training with other activities in most states. We also abandoned the idea of doing the trainings on private farms as originally scheduled, but rather we decided to use governmental facilities. Finally, we scheduled advisor training sessions in Virginia in October 2021, in Alabama in April 2022 (a regional training event), and in Kentucky in July of 2022.
At each training participants were taught the basics of how electric fence works, how to test grounding for the fence, and how to trouble shoot fence problems. In addition, participants had hands-on practice with electric fence reels, various types of temporary wire, temporary posts, and other accessories. They were introduced to all the fence kit components and were provided detailed instructions on how to set up the demonstration at field days and other events.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Teach extension agents and advisors in 5 states about how to effectively teach farmers to use temporary electric fence.
Training sessions will be established in each cooperating state to show how to effectively hold a temporary electric fencing workshop. We will combine the use of a sit down presentation on the major aspects of temporary electric fence management, and follow with hands-on demonstration of how to make the key take home points to an audience gathered to learn about this important technology.
Advisors including Extension Agents and Conservationists will gain the skills to hold an effective training on how to use temporary electric fencing technology. Participants will become familiar with the many kinds of accessories available including a variety of posts, reels, polywire/polytape, lightening protection, and testers. After the training participants will have access to the training kit that will be shared across the state to present the training to farmers and additional advisors.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Temporary electric fence is a key management tool needed to implement many sustainable practices on livestock farms. Rotational grazing is a key management practice requires mastery of temporary electric fence management. Additionally, temporary fence is critical to systems grazing cover crops in integrated crop/livestock farms, and to successful implementation of practices such as bale grazing.
This project was dramatically complicated by the Covid-19 Pandemic. We created the temporary fence educational kits in with winter of 2019-2020 with the intent of distributing them to the cooperating states during the spring and summer of 2020, with the first events scheduled for April, 2020. All these scheduled events had to be cancelled, and it was not for a year and a half that we were able to start our hands-on training. Because many projects stacked up, several of the participating states combined the goals of this project with other projects. In VA we were part of a Graze300 program that combined on-line lectures with a hands-on workshop at 3 locations. We taped our powerpoint presentation, and then taught using the fence kit at 3 locations in October, 2021 (Steels Tavern, VA; Middleburg, VA; and Blackstone, VA). Thirty six advisors participated in these trainings, and participants were mostly extension agents. In April, 2022 we traveled to Alabama to participate in a regional advisor training event. This was a two-day event that featured many forage management topics, including Using the Temporary Electric Fence Kit. Attendance was 64 trainees and 16 instructors, all of whom participated in the fence training activities. This audience was again mostly extension agents from Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and North Carolina. Kits were taken to this event for distribution to GA, SC, and AL. Finally, we traveled to Kentucky in July, 2022 to complete two Electric Fence Workshops, one in Russellville, KY (western KY) and one at Morehead, KY (eastern KY). The agenda for this event was similar to our originally developed agenda with a full day focused on electric fence management. One of our industry partners, Jeremy McGill from Gallagher Fence participated in the KY trainings, and is a new contact that will help with many future activities on this topic. Evaluation of all the programs was accomplished, but evaluations were very different for each event. In general all participants indicated increased knowledge and 90% indicated intention to use in future programs.
We will continue to monitor the use of the temporary fence kits in states where they were distributed, and will continue to use the approach presented here in future educational endeavors. We have had very positive feedback about how useful it is for an advisor to really understand how to design, install and trouble shoot electric fence systems. Also, this is the only training of it's type we are aware of on Temporary Electric Fencing and it will continue to be a critical technology nearly all livestock farmers should master. A quotes from a participant in KY that was especially notable is as follows:
I just wanted to thank you both for the training last week. I’ve been building and using electric fence systems for 20 years, but I still learned several things.
More importantly, however, seeing the hands-on portion of the workshop really showed me how to set up a demonstration in a way that’ll make sense to folks who don’t have any prior experience with electric fencing. I will be offering hands-on electric fence workshops here in Clay County using a very similar format, probably beginning this fall. One of my goals is to get more producers to utilize stockpiled fescue and bale grazing, and I think that the demo you all provided us in Morehead will go a long way toward making that seem doable for folks. I feel kind of ridiculous for not having thought of doing that on my own, but I’m mighty grateful to you all for pointing me in the right direction. I’ve already got everything I’d need out at my farm to do a demo – I just needed the inspiration.
Somewhat tangentially, I also decided during last week’s workshop that I was going to buy a spinning jenny and crimping pliers to loan out to my producers. I’ve probably got some guys who’d be willing to put up a single offset wire as an extension cord to test rotational grazing, but who don’t want to drop $200 into hardware for the sake of an experiment. I think that having some loaner equipment in the office will remove some of the friction.
Thanks again for taking the time to put on the workshop – it was really helpful. Will Bowling, Clay County KY Extension"
We also have been asked to go to Tennessee to present the Temporary Electric Fence Demonstration at a major field day by an agent that attended the training in Alabama. We are looking forward to extending this effort to additional states in the future and to continue to target advisors to expand the number of farmers exposed to this approach.
The participants in this project are very thankful to the SARE staff for their help and patience in implementing this project. We appreciate the willingness to provide no-cost extension and other project support during a difficult time.