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David W. Pratt
U.C.C.E. Farm Advisor


Napa & Solano Counties U.C.C.E.
Livestock/Range Management Program

Whether building permanent fences with high tensile steel wire or temporary electric fences with polywire, an electric fence is not finished until animals have been trained to respect it.
The training area should be a small paddock. Keeping the area small will reduce the time it takes animals to learn about the fence. It will also minimize the time needed to gather and return the animals that get out during training and reduce the time required to build and mend the training fence.
When you turn stock into the training area, keep an eye on the animals but leave them alone to discover the fence on their own. Stock are curious and will investigate the fence. As they do, they'll get their first lesson. When first shocked, animals don't know how to react. Some back up. Others bolt ahead and may go through the fence. When stock get out, gather them up and put them back in. If the training fence was built using polytape or polywire, you may need to fix the fence.

When an animal investigates the fence a second time, it usually does so prepared to back up. I have never seen an animal challenge a fence a third time unless forced to do so. If an animal continues to challenge the fence, cull the animal.

Depending on the number of animals and the size of the paddock, training usually takes no more than one day.
Some people put hay or grain across the fence to give stock some incentive to cross the fence. This can increase the speed of training but is usually unnecessary.
Do not herd animals into the fence. Stock need an escape route. If crowded into the fence, animals may have no choice but to go through the fence.
Sheep are the most difficult class of livestock to train. Wool is an effective insulator, and therefore sheep are best trained just after shearing. Some producers have trained sheep by attaching cut out aluminum cans containing a little molasses to the fence. When sheep come up to lick the can, they get shocked and learn quickly to respect the fence. Make sure the cans do not touch ground wires!

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES Every time I have tried to control cattle or sheep with minimal electric fences (1 to 3 wires) without first training the stock, I have had to spend hours gathering stock and mending fences. When I have taken the time and effort to train stock, the fences have been effective. If minimal electric fences are to consistently hold livestock, training is essential!

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