Welcome to Book of the Week – a weekly feature offering you a glimpse between the pages of an Acres U.S.A. published title.
This week's Book of the Week feature is Dr. Paul Dettloff's Complete Guide to Raising Animals Organically, by Dr. Paul Dettloff with Megan Dettloff-Meyer.
Chapter 7: The Do's and Don'ts of Electric Fencers
Direct current (DC) can cause a number of problems in dairy herds including high somatic cell counts, poor breeding efficiency, low conception rates, high death loss, low water consumption and grain digestion problems. One of the easiest ways to lower direct current on a farm is to understand proper use of electric fencers because they are the number one violator of moving direct current into
equipotential planes (networks of items grounded to each other). The majority of the voltage on organic farms is not coming from the electric cooperative; it is coming from the underground electric maze.
The items grounded together include re-rodded concrete, underground water pipes, manure lagoons (concrete or re-rod), earthen lagoons, slurry stores, watering tanks, hoop buildings, steel fence posts, wells and buried gas lines. With so many items connected to the farm electric grid, if you ground your fencer too close to facilities — electricity will flow by Ohm’s law to milking parlors and animal housing units.
Most of the direct current on these farms can be eliminated by doing simple things including: replacing battery fencers with solar fencers, turning off trainers while milking, making sure that fencers are grounded properly, moving generators farther away from milking facilities, and using non-conductive watering tanks made of poly or rubber instead of metal.
To keep direct current out of equipotential planes, all grounding rods should be six feet deep and ten feet apart. During dry spells, water your grounding rods to make sure they conduct electricity safely into the ground. Keep grounds away from buildings or the farm grid to minimize direct current. Do not put 110 volt or battery fencers in animal buildings, especially the milking barn or parlor. Always keep fencer grounds at least 100 feet away from any animal facilities. Do not put fencers in hoop buildings because they have a 23.5-degree arc that acts like an antenna for EMFs in the air. If you have a fencer in your yard, ground it as close to your transformer pole as possible.
The type of current that bothers cattle is direct current (DC), not alternating current (AC). Gauss meters, which cost $130–170, are capable of measuring direct current by reading electromagnetic fields, or EMFs. When using a Gauss meter an acceptable reading is 2–3 milligauss —anything higher is unsafe for both animals and humans.
Try to make your pasture perimeter fencing non-electric, either polywire or comparable non-barbed wire. It is also preferred to have your cross fencing be solar-powered and grounded far enough away from the yard and buildings to minimize electric current entering your barn’s equipotential plane. Yard
fencing should also be permanent and non-electric.
To reduce electric current in milking facilities, always unplug your electric or battery-powered fencer and trainers when milking. Battery powered fencers emit too many EMFs in a parlor the way trainers do when they are left on while milking. Trainers can emit the same amount of direct current as fencers, so
be careful to never run them while milking.
Make sure your fencer is grounded. Use wood, fiberglass or composite fence posts, never steel. Never run an electric fence along anything metal or put insulators on a metal building. Do not ground to Harvestore silos because they have a concrete base with re-rod in it. Harvestore silos, when full, will generate a one-half volt of energy on their own because of microbiological activity. Keep electric fencers 20 feet away from metal buildings to reduce direct current.
Use poly wire instead of barbed wire or steel fencing wire if possible. There are many types of poly wire that are reusable and durable. Steel wire can pose a hazard for your cows getting hardware disease. If swallowed, one piece of one-inch wire has the potential to kill a cow if the problem is not diagnosed in time.
Cattle watering tanks are the second highest violator of moving direct current on a farm. Water tends to pick up static charges easily when it is too close to electric fences or if a watering tank is resting on rerodded concrete that has electricity flowing in it. Decreased water consumption is a cardinal sign that electricity is flowing in places it should not be.
Usually after a cow milks, she wants to fill up with clean, non-current water.
You can detect direct current in water by watching your cows drink. When a cow comes to water, she is thirsty. At the watering tank, a cow should put her mouth in without hesitation and take 10 to 14 big gulping swigs in a row then come up, take a big breath, and go back for more. She will usually drink a few gallons and then lick both sides of her nostrils with her tongue before going about her way. When electric current is flowing in watering tanks, cattle lap water with their tongues but they cannot take enough water drinking with only their tongues. Water lapping should be easy to spot in all facilities because lappers always make mangers wet and sloppy.
Never run electric fencers within six feet of any water device. The electromagnetic field from the wire will induce a static charge into the water. Even watering tanks made of old tires can become direct current batteries because most large tires have steel belts in them that will pick up a charge also. Keep
all electric fences 6 feet away from any water tanks. Since all metal watering tanks have the ability to conduct current, it is recommended that farmers use
tanks made of poly or rubber.
Cows will usually ground themselves out with their neck or forehead instead of their sensitive tongue and mouth. Sometimes you will see an animal lay their jaw on the watering tank to ground out the current to drink out of metal watering tanks. It’s strongly recommended that all nonconductive watering tanks have a heating element of 240 volts or heat tape of 240 volts. (Do not ground any watering tanks unless required by state regulations. Insist on getting this code in writing stating that it is required.) Any watering device that is not electrified, in many states, is not required to be grounded. Ohm’s law dictates that electricity will always follow the path of least resistance. If watering tanks are grounded to other metals then they are at risk for galvanic action.
Galvanic action is generated current because different metals have different levels of resistance or lack of resistance. This variation can set up a current flow from areas of high resistance to low resistance. In this picture, a copper wire is bonded to a mild steel watering tank. The watering tank is then bonded with a brass ring to a galvanized pipe. The direct current generated by having five different metals connected is shocking the calf every time it drinks. Calves that get shocked over time and have decreased water intake develop hair with the appearance of rough, dry straw. Often calves with these appearances from sustaining direct current over time are often confused as being infected with
parasites or having poor nutrition.
In conclusion, don’t put fencers in any animal facility or ground them close to any animal building. Never, never have fencers or trainers on while milking. Never run electric fence over water; stray six feet away on both sides and ten feet above a water surface. Use poly or rubber waters, not metal. Solar units have improved greatly in the last decade. This allows for grounding them out of the yard. Always ground fencers three times with copper rods ten feet apart wire in series. Buy a weedeater and walk you fence every two weeks to keep long grass and vegetation from shorting out your fencer. A high-dollar 13-joule fencer isn’t always needed if you keep a 5- or 7-joule fencer from grounding out.
About the Authors:
Paul Dettloff, D.V.M. was raised on a farm in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine in 1967. Though he began as a conventional practitioner, he moved into the sustainable and organic/biological treatment of dairy and beef cows, sheep and goats using natural remedies, botanicals, homeopathy and holistic management of the soil and entire farm. He is an international authority on the natural farming and consults and lectures widely.
Megan Dettloff-Meyer, L.Ac., MSOM is a nationally certified acupuncturist, Oriental medicine practitioner and diplomat in Chinese herbology. She operates Dr. Paul’s Lab, a maker of herbal remedies.
Similar Books of Interest:
Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals, by Dr. Paul Dettloff
Cure Your Own Cattle, by Newman Turner
The Barn Guide to Treating Dairy Cows Naturally, by Hubert Karreman