My Electronet is three years old and already starting to fail. I’ve confirmed that the pulser is working fine, with nearly 10,000 volts coming out. But once connected to four sections of fence, I’m lucky to get 1,200 volts. 4,000 volts is an adequate shock to really convince animals not to test it, 2,000 is marginal. A thousand volts is more like a tickle.

I believe this reduction in performance is just caused by wear and tear: the metal filaments woven into the fence strands are small and fragile. Over time, with lambs occasionally trying to ram their way through in some panic, snags on blackberry vines, repairs from dog chewing, and the sliding through plastic guides that happens when you tension the fencing, have all taken their toll; increasing the resistivity of the fence.

A few of my sheep have started to catch on. Not only is the level of shock low and worth the risk, some have realized that if they uproot the bottom nylon cord with their noses and pull out a stake, they can slide right under the net and find freedom. I think the ones with good technique aren’t getting shocked at all. There are a couple of real professionals: I put them back inside, and ten minutes later, I can watch them deploy this maneuver in very intentional way to let themselves back out. They are so smooth at it that they usually leave the fence undisturbed; and the rest of the sheep stay inside, never figuring out the secret. So I guess not all sheep are totally dumb, just most of them.

So, I’ve switched to a smaller enclosure; with only two fence sections, the resistance is lower and I can get the jolt back up to 2,000 volts.  This means moving the squares more often; but it’s easier in that I can build the next square on the “off day” if the sheep are in a two-day rotation. This is working pretty well with my ram and wether group, though I still do have a couple that regularly escape.

The escapees aren’t that big of a deal, they still stick close by the flock.They are reasonably safe when they are “inland” in our property, not near the perimeter where coyotes lurk, nor near the road. And besides, I figure if they know how to get out, they know how to get back in if there is a threat. The downside is they get into things: the garden, other plantings, and the fruit trees. They’ve done some damage, much to my husband’s chagrin, since the plants are his. (Although I could make the argument that if we didn’t have sheep, and thus guardian dogs, the deer would be taking it to us much worse!)

People ask me often whether sheep are good for grazing fruit orchards. The answer is yes, for mature fruit orchards. But for our young saplings, it’s a little rough. The sheep strip the lower branches, and also push on the tree trunks, using them as scratching posts. For sturdier trees and bushes, the sheep actually do a beautiful, uniform and natural-looking prune job on  the bottom, rivaling any arborist:

Now that we are so grass-starved, and I’m using this small section of fencing, I’ve been squeezing out graze even in the rows between the trees. Normally we’d just mow this with the tractor. But every little bit helps use less hay!

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