Friday, December 13, 2013

Heat lamp hints

Here's a hint for the occasions that you need to change a bulb in a Premier Heat Lamp: use pliers.
For some, it's difficult to squeeze the clips together in order to open the lamp's grill.

 Simply squeeze with a pair of pliers to open. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recharging 12v batteries…

We're going to discuss a 40% charge. Don't worry, it has nothing to do with our pricing, so you can breathe easy. However, it does have to do with some of our batteries.

When we sell a battery, we recommend it not going below a 40% charge. All right, that's easy to figure out. A 12v (volt) battery holds 12v, 40% of 12 is 4.8 or 4.8v. That line of thought is incorrect.

12v batteries are fully charged at 12.6v and are depleted or 0% at 11.7 volts. Some energizers will function even when a battery is below 11.7v. However, this will cause damage to the battery. So a 40% charge is slightly over 12.1v. Clear as mud right? For 12v batteries we use the chart below for determining charge percentages.

How do you determine the voltage of your battery? Use a Battery Charge Meter to check the voltage. Use a ReCharger for 12v batteries to charge batteries. If you have a 12v voltmeter (not a fence tester), test your battery after charging. Try to avoid going over 13-14v charge on a 12v battery. Overcharging is similar to blowing up a balloon until it pops. You may continue getting air into it, but eventually it's going to pop. Our battery won't "pop" but overcharging does cause damage and will reduce its usable life. -

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tips for setting up netting successfully

On occasion someone will call in or email and ask "my net is sagging, what can I do?" There are a few options for setting up netting and reducing sag, we'll go over them below.

  1. Added posts: For folks who already have the net in their possession and need a little "lift" added posts are their best option. They can be placed anywhere in the net for support. The downside is removing them before moving the net. It is possible to fold and roll the posts in with the net, depending on the post. Posts with multiple clips attached quickly make a nuisance of themselves by becoming snagged on other sections of the net.   

  2. Resetting the net: When I set net, I only use posts for added support at corners, if needed. I can usually sneak by with no posts. How? Practice. Also working at Premier has honed my net setting skills. A major help at corners or for straightening sagging net is post placement. Instead of sticking the post into the ground straight up/down at a corner, stick it in at an angle so the top of the post leans away from the corner. The added tension will remove even the most stubborn of sags. 

  3. Spike placement: When setting the net, move the spike with your foot for added tension, then stick it into the ground.  

  4. Plus Nets: Nets with the term Plus after the name (ex. PoultryNet Plus) have additional posts built into the netting. The closer spacings reduce the amount of sagging between posts (which in turn aids in reducing ground to wire contact). The added posts increase the overall weight and bulkiness of the net, so we shortened the total length (not height). PoultryNet 12/42/3 weighs 1.5 lbs per 10' of net, whereas PoultryNet 12/42/3 Plus weighs 2.1 lbs per 10' of net. Plus nets are shorter in order to be lighter and less bulky, so they're more manageable for the user. An added benefit to Plus nets is their ability to handle corners and curves better than regular nets. 
Post spacing comparison. The net in the back is PoultryNet Plus net with added built-in posts. Net in the foreground is regular PoultryNet. 

The first three options cover what you can do with net you already have. If you're planning on purchasing net, look into using a Plus net for areas with corners and curves. 

Open position at Premier

Premier is looking for an Inventory Purchasing Assistant for acquiring product from all over the world via road, sea and airfreight. If qualified will advance to head of purchasing within 18 months. Requires good interpersonal, computer and spreadsheet skills. Contact

Friday, September 20, 2013

Job Opening

Wanted: Product consultant to answer customer questions about farm and backyard related products for a mail-order business. 

Essential skills: curious mind, pleasant style/tone on the phone, interpersonal & computer skills.
Full-time with benefits. No smoking. 
2031 300th St, Washington, IA 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Energizer Impedance

Southeast Iowa has been dry for the last few weeks. Last year we went over drought fencing tips. This year we thought we would go over energizer impedance.

Impedance is similar to resistance. For energizers it means the level of ohms (resistance) that matches an energizer’s peak output. If low ohms then it's a low-impedance energizer. 

The first fence energizers (50+ years ago) were high-impedance units. Their maximum output occurred when the fence was weed-free. They could cope with drier soils but were very vulnerable to weed contact. Most were too small in output to be effective against difficult animals. The next generation was low-impedance energizers. They coped well with high weed contact but not with dry soils or poor conductors. They work best against low-resistance animals (cattle, horses, pigs) standing on moist soils.

“Wide-impedance” is Premier’s term for newer units that perform well in both dry and wet soils and in green and brown grass. In dry soils or with animals of high resistance (goats, wildlife and poultry), wide-impedance units out perform low-impedance units of similar output. 

The graph below compares 2 low-impedance units with a wide-impedance energizer (the 506). 
  • Note when each excelled. 
  • Note also that the larger low-impedance unit did better than its low-impedance little brother in all conditions.

  1. An energizer’s output is not a constant. The stated number on the outside of the box is a peak. It’s never more than stated and almost always much less.
  2. The shape of the curve is important. The chart illustrates 2 output curves, in joules. One is that of a wide-impedance energizer with 2.7 joule peak output. The other a low-impedance charger with twice (5.2 joules) the peak output. 
  3. The low-impedance unit excels when the soil is moist, the grass is green, the animal is a good conductor and there are plenty of ground rods.
  4. Wide-impedance units excel at stopping animals when the total resistance is higher, the grass is brown, the soil is drier (but not arid), the animal is not a good conductor and the ground rod(s) are less in total length.
  5. The higher an energizer’s peak joule output is at 500Ω, the more likely it will be effective when there is high green-weed contact on the wires close to the ground. 
  6. The higher an energizer’s output in joules at 5000Ω, the more likely it is to be effective when the soil becomes dry.

Wide-impedance energizers are able to deliver high-pulse energy levels and high voltages through a wider range of fence situations—including those with high total fence circuit resistance due to inferior polywire/netting; dry, sandy, rocky soils; dry, brown grass; and fewer ground rods. Animals have greater respect for and fear of fences energized by wide-impedance units.

Joules of pulse energy at the end of the fence (and thus the potential pain available to animals) drop as the total resistance of the fence circuit increases—due to wet soils becoming dry, reliance upon stainless steel polywire and tape fences, or fencing across sandy/rocky soils. Low-impedance energizers deliver high pain potentials when the resistance is low (hence their well-deserved reputation for working well when the soil is moist and the grass is green), but much less as the combined resistance of the soil, animal and wire rises.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shepherd tools

ATVs and UTVs are widely used on the Premier farms. Aside from shepherds, what do they carry?

When we go out to the fields, there are 5 main items we carry—

1. A shepherd's crook

Why use a crook?

Because most sheep and goats are quicker than we are. They have 4 legs, hooves for traction, peripheral vision, speed and a keen sense of when “something’s up”. That’s why it’s so easy for them to avoid capture (or guidance) by humans.

A good crook improves the odds by suddenly making your arms much longer—even if the passing years may have reduced your agility a bit.

About crooks…

  1. Once you figure out how useful they are, it’s hard to herd sheep/goats without a crook in your hand. But if you have just one, it’s rarely where you need it. So we have several—in the barns, on the ATV and by our handling yard.
  2. Crooks don’t last. It’s the nature of their usage that, over time, they bend or break. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they are much less expensive from Premier than they were 5 years ago (except for the wooden ones), so they’re less painful to replace.

Premier crook tips… 

  1. To catch sheep and lambs with a neck crook—Once the neck is inside the loop, instantly rotate the crook with your wrist. This applies pressure to both sides of the neck and gives you an extra second or two to pull the animal into reach of your hands.
  2. To catch a ewe with newborn lambs on the pasture—First catch the lambs and hold onto them with one hand. Then lay a leg crook between the lambs and ewe with the leg head toward the ewe. The ewe will likely face her lambs. Encourage the ewe ever closer. When the ewe’s front foot is near, instantly raise the crook and snare her front leg.
  3. The best crook for hair sheep? Both neck and leg crooks work, as the neck and leg sizes are much the same as wooled breeds.
  4. Why leg crooks for goats? 

  • Because goats prefer to face you—so to catch them it works best to snag a front foot. 

  • A goat’s agility, slim neck and lack of wool mean that neck crooks usually fail to hold a goat.

2. Fence tester

The cup holders on Premier vehicles usually not used for their intended purpose. More often than not, they're holding a fence tester instead of a beverage. After all, a fence tester is much more useful than an empty coffee cup. 

If you have fence, you need a fence tester. There are many innovative ways to test a fence, but nothing beats a quality fence tester.

We're in the habit of constantly checking fence. If fence is moved/built, it's checked. If sheep are moved, it's checked. If we drive through a gate attached to a fence we check the voltage. If we see a fence, we check. Our motto is more or less "leave no fence unchecked." By monitoring the voltage we know what it should be. A sudden drop means there is a problem and we fix it.  

Common voltmeter mistakes

  1. Not buying a good one. I know we sell 5-light testers—but a true digital voltmeter is far more accurate and informative when searching for fence problems. 
  2. Not using it. Many folks wait for animals to tell them (by escaping) when the fence voltage is too low.
  3. Allowing your tester or voltmeter to shock you. Don’t grab the ground probe while the tester is still on the fence. When you’ve finished testing your fence, remove the tester from the “live” wire first. Then, and only then, pull the ground probe out of the soil. 

3. PowerLink

It was mentioned that the cup holders contain fence testers. In the cases of glove boxes, beneath seats and hidden storage areas, PowerLinks reign supreme. If you lifted the seat on our UTV, you would find a PowerLink colony.

Each time we put up fence we use a PowerLink. It connects the newly installed fence to the permanent (and energized) fence. The fences that need PowerLinks are temporary, thus a permanent connection is not needed. A very useful tool.

4. Hoof Trimmer

If a vehicle has two cup holders, the first holds a fence tester and the second holds a pair of hoof trimmers.

The difference between an animal with a limp and one without a limp is often an overgrown hoof. The remedy—catch the animal with your handy dandy crook and trim their hoof. Check for general hoof health and if further treatment is needed (for scald/rot) bring the animal in and treat. More often than not, once the hoof is trimmed, the animal's gait returns to normal.

They're also used to prune pesky branches/bushes that are growing a little too close to our electric fences. A quick snip reduces electrical drain on our fences and gives us peace of mind.

5. Snap Link(s)

If we totaled the quantity of snap links in use on our farm and compared it to the number of snap links in stock in the warehouse, the farm would win—handily. Often there is a string of 3-8 of them hanging off of a panel in one of our barns in case they need to be used. They populate the bottoms of the cup holders as well. Our shepherd Mike usually has one or two in his pocket. I'm pretty sure he uses them throughout the day then has to refill his pockets when he comes to work in the morning.

Their uses? Impromptu hinges for connecting panels to handling equipment with a linking stake, on big bale feeders, connecting panels for field entrances and for lambing jugs.

Honorable mentions—

Encouraging goats across a concrete creek crossing. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Troubleshooting electric fences

Check your fences as often.

Fences giving you headaches? Use the troubleshooting info below for determining whether your energizer or your fence is the cause. 

Is it the energizer or the fence that’s the problem?

1. To check—turn off the energizer.
2. Then disconnect the wires going to the fence and ground rod system. 
3. Turn the energizer back on.
4. Then measure the voltage between the 2 terminals (fence and earth) on the energizer with a digital fence voltmeter or other fence testing device (place the ground probe onto the “-” terminal and the fence probe onto the “+” terminal). 
5. If the tester reads less than 4000 volts, the energizer (or possibly the battery if it’s a battery energizer) is the problem. 
6. If the tester reads more than 4000 volts, the fence is the problem and the energizer is working properly.

If the energizer is at fault—

1. Check that the 110v outlet is “live” with a test light.
2. If the test light works and the energizer does not, contact Premier ( or 1-800-282-6631). We are happy to help and will act quickly.

First determine whether it’s the battery or the energizer that’s not working.
1. If it’s a 12v energizer, carry it to a nearby vehicle. Attach the input cords carefully to the vehicle’s battery. 
2. If the energizer works, then the energizer’s battery needs to be recharged or replaced. 
3. If the energizer does not work when attached to a vehicle battery, then you should call Premier (1-800-282-6631) about the unit.

If the fence is at fault— 

How to find the fault(s)
Walk or ride along the fence looking for situations that are reducing the voltage. Re-attach the fence and ground wires to the energizer and turn it on. Check voltage. 

1. If you have a Fault Finder, use it. The arrow will tell you which direction the energy is flowing (leaking). Follow the fence from the energizer outward. Move in the direction of the arrow, testing as you go until you arrive at the problem. 
Note: Fault Finders can tell which section of net is at fault if you touch it to the clips where 2 nets join. But it is not able to locate the exact location within a net because energy flows in multiple directions within a net.

2. If you don’t have a Fault Finder (and do have a voltmeter or fence tester): Walk or drive along the fence. 

a. Nettinglook for:
• Lowest live strand against the metal spike near the soil (photo below).
• Damaged strands that are touching the ground.
• Netting touching a wire fence or steel post.

• Damaged and broken insulators.
• Any point where an energized wire touches the soil, a steel or wood post or a nonenergized wire. Separate them.
• Branches lying on the fence and forcing wires together. Remove them. (HT wires will “spring” back, photo below.)

A fallen tree can be a real downer on your fence voltage. 

c. Listen for snapping sounds as you walk along a fence. These occur when a conductor is close to a grounded wire, stake and/or a large green weed or tree.

Use switches to turn power on/off to sections of fence. Useful for determining where the shorts are/aren't.

d. Separate the fence into parts by turning off switches (if it’s a permanent HT wire fence), or by disconnecting portions of electric netting. Then progressively reconnect it, checking voltage as you do so. When the voltage suddenly drops, you’ve found the area with the problem (the section you just connected or switched on).

Hope this helps you in determining your fencing issues.
For more fence help, check out the following links—
Pos/Neg Fence Tips
How to keep your solar units working

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Omelets in the breakroom

Premier's garden goodies. Tomatoes and eggplants ripening on the vine. 

The square of butter stubbornly held solid for just seconds before it gave in to the heat of the skillet. Hot liquid butter spilled out and crashed against the sides of the pan, coating the entire surface in creamy goodness. Chopped tomatoes, peppers, onion and eggplant were thrown in to sizzle and sear. 

While the butter and vegetables got acquainted, three eggs were cracked and whisked until perfectly blended. The mixed eggs were poured over the softening vegetables, filling the gaps between. Moist egg quickly stiffened when it hit the heat. 

The pan is quickly shaken over the heat. Egg swirls along the sides only stopping when it hits bare metal. The shaken loosens the forming omelet from the pan. The circle of egg and vegetable shifts and shakes and eventually folding over on itself. 

The end result. The omelet accompanied by green beans and sweet corn direct from the garden. 

The skillet is taken off the heat and momentarily hovers before it tilts and slides the piping hot omelet onto an eagerly awaiting plate. 

The taste? Excellent. Why? The eggs were fresh from the hens on the East Farm and the vegetables were straight out of Premier's garden.

The last few weeks I have feasted on fresh omelets I made during lunch. Each day Adrian brings fresh veggies into the break room and I incorporate the fresh fare into my lunch (as do many others). Eggs are provided on a weekly basis by Stan's sister Vivian (she tends Premier's chickens on the East Farm).

The garden is more than just delicious food. It's also a full scale flower garden. 

Though it's still summer, winter will soon be here and the fresh veggies will be but a memory. I'd like to thank Vivian and Adrian for all of their hard work and Stan and Jean for supporting the garden and poultry flock. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Fewer deer make for more wine!

Iowa's largest wine bottle (13' 7") stands outside of Fireside Winery's winery. 

Last week, Rachel, Madison (Stan and Jean's granddaughter) took a trip to Marengo, IA to visit the folks of Fireside Winery. They use our 3-D anti-deer fence design around their vineyard.

Madison standing between the two layers of 3-D fence. 

We met with Zach Bott, a long time shepherd and Fireside's winemaker. In 2009, he needed a fence that could keep deer out of the 13 acre vineyard. A 6 ft or taller fence was not desirable. He contacted Premier and spoke with Stephanie Sexton, who after a visit to the vineyard, suggested the 3-D fence. (The 3-D fence is actually 2 fences of electrified rope set 3 ft apart. They combine to make a barrier that has height, width and depth!)

IntelliRope 4.5 provides high conductivity and visibility. 

Bott baits the fence twice a year with scent caps. In the Spring when the leaves bud from the vines and later in the Summer when the grapes are ripening. These are the times when deer pressure is the highest, and Bott wants to ensure that the local deer know the vineyard is off limits. The fence has been up and used consistently since it was installed in 2009. Bott remarks that the fence, "really keeps them (deer) out." Plans are being made for expanding the vineyard and planting more grapes. Bott thinks that they will experiment with a 2-D multistrand fence.

Aside from rolling hills of 3-D deer fence, we saw a few innovative uses of our ear tags. At the end of each row of vines was an ear tag marked with the variety of grapes grown in that row. It works out pretty well. The tags (which are UV treated) are exposed to the elements 24/7 but won't fade.
Using ear tags to mark the rows of grapes. 

After the photo session we had to head out. Unfortunately we did not have time to enjoy some wine, but we're making plans for an off-the-clock trip.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sheep cheese comes to port

You might want to sit down for this. We're thinking about selling cheese. Not just any cheese that you can find in a store. This will be special cheese. The kind whose flavor sticks to your palate and is complimented (if not enhanced) by a good glass of port. The cheese we're thinking of providing is sheep cheese. Nothing is set in stone, we're just baaing around the idea for now. No promises. In truth, a few of us suspect the idea was just an excuse to eat some sheep cheese.

The spread. 
As the copywriter, I have the solemn responsibility of writing about our products, so I took the task of taste tester upon my shoulders for the good of the company (and ultimately our readers in case we decide to sell the cheese). I wouldn't want to force someone else to stuff themselves with cheese after cheese after cheese.

And so late last month, I found myself sitting in the dining room of Stan and Jean's house. Laid before me was an array of 24 sheep cheeses. An abundance of colors, shapes and textures were evident. There were several creamy whites, translucent yellows and a smattering of blues and greens.

Accompanying the cheese was a selection of grapes, olives, sliced apples and bread. Their purpose was to cleanse the palate between each sample of potentially potent cheese.

Each cheese was rated on the scale of "Would you want to eat more of this?" The cheese could be ranked as "Yes! (I would eat more)", "I'm not sure…" and "Not in a million years." Of 24 cheeses, I had 5 I'm not sure's and 19 Yes! For me, not one cheese ranked as not in a million years, then again, I'm a huge fan of lamb face salad and my taste buds can handle most flavors. Others were not so amiable to enjoying certain cheeses in the future.

The overall top pick for the group was Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert, made from both sheep and cow milk. A very soft and easy to spread cheese. It tasted of creamy goodness. Enjoyed by all.

One of the many types of cheese we sampled. A "cousin" to Nancy's Hudson Valley  Camembert. Soft, creamy and delicious. 

I'll discuss my overall top pick for the tasting, Bohemian Blue. For me, all other cheese paled in comparison to the flavor of this cheese.

What type of cheese is Bohemian Blue? It's a blue cheese developed as a substitute to French made Roqueforts. Imported Roquefort's were subject to heavy tariffs for a few years so a U.S. made version was the obvious answer. The Bohemian Blue is dry and crumbly whereas the Roqueforts are drippy and wet. A few folks from Premier (Stan, Jean and Cheyenne) were able to enjoy some fresh Roquefort during the French Sheep Tour in 2011. Cheyenne conceded that Bohemian Blue was the next best alternative to the Roquefort she sampled overseas.

My take on the cheese—the second the cheese touched my tongue, my mouth came alive with energy. The previous 22 samples had dulled my senses, but they certainly woke up when I tried the Blue. The saltiness of the cheese was overcome by the sharp flavor that emanated throughout my mouth. I can't put into words the flavor of the cheese, I can only describe it as a really good blue cheese. I'm not typically a blue cheese fan but Bohemian Blue made me rethink how I look at cheese.

The tasting sheet. Each cheese was rated for taste and testers were encouraged to fill the white space with comments. 
What did others think of Bohemian Blue. Common comments were salty, sharp and great aftertaste. Not one person checked "not in a million years" for the Blue.

Will we be offering cheese in the upcoming years? That has yet to be decided, we might have to hold another tasting…or two.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Midwest Horse Fair 2013

Have you ever attended the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, WI? Well one of our product consultants, Kolby, has gone the past few years and always comes back with good stories and good ideas.

There were about 53,500 folks in attendance and it seems almost every one passed through the booth. Kolby was lucky enough to have an indoor booth as it was slightly chilly and damp outdoors.

Since spring is more or less here, there was a lot of interest in Horse QuikFence and Trailer Paddock Kits. These easy to set up fences are handy for letting horses have some roaming room when they're at the show or on the trail.

Kolby mentioned folks who raised more than horses. Maybe next we'll show up with a little more than our horse fences. If you find yourself at the Midwest Horse Fair next spring, look for us and find out.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nitty-Gritty of Creep Feeding

Creep feeding provides additional feed and nutrition to lambs. This is typically done for market lambs to boost their weaning weight. Creep introduces lambs (before weaning) to the type of feed they will consume in a drylot (if they are to be drylotted).

A typical creep feeding setup consists of a small pen with a Premier Creep Gate on one side. The gate allows the lambs to enter the feeding area while keeping the ewes out. Since we have many lambs, our creep feeding area is large. We're using several of our 6'-8' panels connected to Premier's Build Your Own feeders and a creep gate.

An indoor creep area should be clean, dry and well lit. The light will attract the lambs and the clean/dry area will encourage them to stay there. If in a barn that is not well lit, hang a heat lamp above the creep pen. The bulb does not have to be a heat bulb, just something to provide a light source.

Outdoor creep areas should offer some protection from the elements while keeping the creep clean and dry. Since it is an area that many lambs will congregate, it should either be easy to move or easy to clean. 

The creep area should be in a location that is accessed by the ewe flock daily. The pen should be located close to the flock’s water source or feed source. It is not recommended to keep a water source in the pen as this can create wet/sloppy areas in the pen.

Since lambs are quickly growing, the creep should have a high protein content to build lean muscle. Consult a sheep nutritionist to develop the best system for your flock. 

A well designed and operated creep will help get lambs on feed soon and to market at an earlier age.

For more information on creep feeding visit:
Premier's Sheep Guide 
Maryland's Sheep and Goat website

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shearing 2013

It's that time of year again. Our later bred east farm ewes received their annual haircut shear yesterday. A few shearers kindly came up form Missouri to help us out.

Mike preparing to grab the fleece from shearer Ivan (he's the star of our shearing video). Don and Joe stood in the stalls and handed a fresh ewe to the shearers as soon as they finished the ewe they were currently shearing. 

The fleeces were inserted into a hydraulic power baler. Adrian (one of Premier's shepherds) ran the baler and helped pickup fleeces. He also caught the occasional loose sheep.

These scoundrels (Joe and Don) were busy handing fully wooled sheep to the shearers. This photo was shot while the shearers were changing out their combs/cutters

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Immediate Openings

Immediate Openings

Sales Phone Person
Position Summary: Talk to customers about our products and be able to patiently respond to their concerns.
Requirements: Phone and people skills. Able to learn and explain use/misuse of animal clippers, ear tags, electric fence, etc. Prior animal experience preferable—particularly sheep, goats, horses and outdoor poultry.

Purchasing Assistant
Position Summary: We buy product from all over the world. Our purchasing manager is retiring in 2 years. Will assist him to organize orders and delivery.
Requirements: Proficiency in Excel, Word. Operate forklifts.
Work Experience: Prior experience in purchasing.

Premier offers health/dental/life ins. benefits, 401K—plus annual merit bonuses. 

To apply: send resume by email to

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Goings on, happenings, catalogs and a lamb named Houdini.

Stan will be providing a lambing update in our Feb/March Newsletter. Make sure to sign up if you're not currently receiving our newsletters.

I myself have not been outside much this winter/lambing season. The weather (though mild) has been too cold and the coffee perfectly warm and comforting. In truth, the reason for my lack of polar expeditions was catalog season—non-stop since last fall. The result of my tireless efforts (with assistance from Stan, Jody, Kerrie, Rachel and others) are the Poultry, Equipment and upcoming Fence catalogs.

For those of you eagerly awaiting the arrival of the fence catalog, you may start camping by your mailbox around the 3rd week of March. Until then, the website, blog, Guide to All Things Sheep and newsletter should suffice as your source of info from Premier.

Though I've been inside, I have heard a few tails tales from the lambing barn.

The most notable occurred one morning when one of our shepherds (who shall remain nameless) burst into Graphics and thrilled us with the account of The Phantom Lamb.

While doing chores in the pre-lambing area (where the ewes are kept prior to being put into jugs for lambing) the shepherd heard a faint baa. A quick scan of the pen offered no insights to where the young voice had originated. More baas, but no lamb in sight. Frustrated and ready to move on with chores, our shepherd was moments away from dropping to his hands and knees to check under each ewe for the invisible lamb.

Another baa lead him to a baleage bale situated in one of our bale feeders. A ewe making motherly ewe sounds (you know, the deep throaty grumble that ewes make when speaking to their lambs) was inspecting the bale. Knowing that the ewe did not believe the bale to be her lamb, our hero checked the bale up/down and all around for a lamb trapped against a panel. No lamb.

Another lamb like bleat emanated from the bale. The ewe circled and searched the bale ring. Again, no lamb.

Our shepherd, stopped and pondered all the possibilities surrounding the situation. Could the lamb running around the bale in order to avoid the shepherd and the ewe? Is the lamb hiding elsewhere? Are gases from the silage process escaping the bale and making baaing sounds?

During this thought process, our hero noticed movement from one of the holes in the bale. The loose baleage moved! Had years of raising sheep using non-organic methods caused a mutation in the forage or did a lamb decide to play a drawn out game of hide and seek?

Quickly, the shepherd reached into the bale and below the loose baleage. After finding his target situating his hands in just the right position, he pulled and the lamb (head first with its legs under the chin) came out! Once our hero released the lamb, the lamb bounded straight to its mother for a belly full of milk. The shepherd, having just assisted a bale in giving birth, walked away to continue doing his morning chores and hoping for no more errant lambs.

Upon the ending of the tale, the Graphics folks were doubled over in laughter and I was preparing my next blog post. Names were removed to protect the dignity of the shepherd and all embellishments were added by myself, writers privilege.

Friday, February 22, 2013

How-to videos

We recently added a few how-to videos to our Facebook and YouTube pages. Most of the videos pertain to lambing season and could be helpful. Check them out if you have time this weekend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Netting: Struts or Strings

Strutted: large plastic struts between horizontal strands.
String: strings between horizontal strands.

Strutted Nets— 
  • Able to hold “live” strands above the soil when net passes over taller grass, sticks, rocks and dirt mounds. 
  • Allows net to be set up with less tension (because struts offer support between posts). Because the tension is less, fence setup is more “casual.”
  • Enables net to maintain its height between horizontals. Makes handling easier during installation or removal.
  • Much tidier when set up. 

String Nets—
  • Needs more tension than strutted nets (to reduce sagging).
  • For shorter fence lines. Exceptions are PermaNet and PoultryNet—they have much taller and thicker posts that can better handle strain and prevent the lower strands from sagging.  
  • For fences that need to contain small animals. Nets with strings have tighter spacings between the verticals. 
What do we recommend? 

For most fences we recommend a strutted net. However, PermaNet, PoultryNet and VersaNet are only available as string nets. Both PermaNet and PoultryNet have thicker posts than regular string netting. The added strength considerably reduces sagging. VersaNet is a much shorter net (less weight) so sagging is not as severe as taller nets. Added posts and "Plus" nets further reduce sagging.  
For short fences with low weed contact, string nets are sufficient. If set up well (adequate tension), string nets (E'Net and E'Stop) do very well, it takes a little more effort.

To see all available netting types, visit our website.
For netting installation videos visit our how-to video page.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ear Tag Placement

For maximum retention and the lowest risk of bleeding and infection, place ear tags in either of the two spots. (One piece loop tags only fit in the lower spot.) The goal is about 2" from the head of the sheep.

The opposite extreme (installing too far from the skull) will result in more lost tags as the tissue on the tip of the ear is tender and tears easily.

Be careful to avoid the large vein (shown above).

Be aware of the season time of year. In warmer months, tags should be treated with an anti-septic and a fly repellant (such as Catron IV or Pine Tar). We prefer Catron IV as it is long lasting, very effective and does not stain the tag. 

For How-To videos for each type of sheep tag, Premier has a series of videos available on our homepage.

Tag selection:
This year we are inserting Q-Flex 1.5 tags into our lambs. They're a larger than Snapp or Swivel tags but smaller than most of our EasyTags. For lambs we prefer smaller tags (less likely to weigh down their young ears). For stock that we keep back, we insert larger tags such as the Q-Flex 3 or 5. Their ears can handle the larger tag and the numbers (printer larger) are far easier to read.

In our catalogs and on the website, tag colors are arranged by readability of the imprinting.

When cutting out old tags (when you switch from small to large tags), a pair of hoof trimmers easily trump a jack knife. The old hole can be reused for the new tag. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pigging out!

The pigs enjoying a fresh piece of garden to digest. 
Late last Fall while walking out to do chores in the evening I would hear some of the strangest sounds emanating from my garden. Grunts, whoofs, chomps, slurps and snorts traveled through the night air and to my ears. Normally this combination of sounds would cause me to quiver in fear, but knowing the source(s) calmed my nerves.

The mysterious source? A trio of hampshire cross hogs.

So what can you do with 3 (not so little) pigs, 200 ft of Pig QuikFence and a PRS 50? You can make the perfect garden bed!

My family and I fenced off a section of one of our gardens and let some pigs work their magic. The pigs would root around in the soil feasting on the remnants of the garden, turn over the soil and breakdown the still standing vegetation. The one thing they did not eat was the beets, instead they rolled these under the fence and out of the garden. Apparently these porkers did not read the part of the book stating that pigs eat beets. Can't say I disagree with them (sorry beet lovers).

The former garden now pigpen. The panels (background and left) are from an ear corn bin. They are now used as a bean/cucumber trellis. 

Their house was framed with panels, covered with a tarp and insulated with straw bales on the outside. The original fence was reclaimed woven wire and cattle/hog panels. This setup is not very portable but it does keep the pigs in (rather than across the road visiting the neighbors).

In order to expand the pigs' roaming area without adding more panels, we used Pig QuikFence. First the pigs had to be trained to the fence. I set up the netting inside the panel enclosure and electrified the netting. I monitored the pigs until each one "experienced" the net. After this, I took the net down, barricaded the pigs in their straw hut and took down the panels. Up went the netting and out came the pigs. They stayed away from the netting and quickly took advantage of their new running area. The woofed, waddled, tilled and trotted to their hearts content.

After several weeks in their pen it became evident that the pigs were giving the fence a cautionary berth. This was easily determined by noticing that the earth was tilled up to 1 ft of the fence.

In a few months time, these pigs will make a trip to a local locker and become a plethora of delectable cuts and sausages.

The three pork-o-tillers overseeing some of their handiwork. The panels (back and right) were replaced by Pig QuikFence, a much lighter and easier to move alternative. 

As always, make sure to clean any food items produced in gardens/orchards that have had livestock or livestock manure present.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Newborn lamb tips

What's the most important thing that lambs need for a healthy start?

Colostrum, colostrum, colostrum! It is the first milk produced by mothers. It contains high levels of energy and nutrients that are vital for a newborn's health and performance. Also, the ewe's antibodies (not antibiotics) are passed on to the lamb through the colostrum. These antibodies act against infectious agents. Watery mouth (a common lamb illness) can often be avoided if a lamb receives enough colostrum as a newborn.

When the farm guys (Mike, Carl and Adrian) come across new lambs in the lambing barn, they make sure that the lambs receive colostrum from their dam and that the ewes teats are stripped (milked by hand to remove any wax build-up in the teat canal).

If a ewe has no or too little colostrum, it is supplemented with colostrum from another ewe, cow, goat or a colostrum alternative such as Lamb & Kid Kolostral. This colostrum is tubed into or fed via bottle (depending on lambs ability to suck).  

What else does colostrum provide aside from passive resistance to disease early on? Ever wonder why a lamb seems to fall behind the others in terms of growth? If you look back at its history, it may not have received enough colostrum. It provides the boost a lamb needs for a healthy start. Over the years we've noticed the lambs that didn't receive enough colostrum usually became the runts or ne'er-do-wells.

For more information on colostrum, Iowa State University produced this fact sheet.

Any other newborn lamb protocols from Premier?

While the lambs are still young, we dip their navels in Triodine using a Navel Cup. This dries out the umbilical cord and aids in preventing navel joint ill.

We match lambs to ewes—no, not by color—by dam and lamb(s). The ewes are numbered by order of lambing. Their lamb(s) receives the same number as the ewe. Numbers are made with Super Sprayline but Si-Ro-Mark can be used as well. We also use a color scheme to denote twins, triplets and singles. Single receive blue marks, twins/green and triplets/orange.

Many folks give lambs select vaccinations. We suggest that you consult your veterinarian and local producers to see what vaccine protocol is suggested for your management system.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

UK Sheep Tour July 17-27, 2013

Update February 20, 2013—All the seats have been filled. If you would like to be put on the waiting list, email Cheyenne at

This July 17-27, journey through unique, historic, and beautiful England and Wales with 35 other USA sheep producers. The trip includes:

Royal Welsh Show
A full day will be spent at the Royal Welsh Show—one of the largest and best-attended agricultural shows in Europe. Located in the heart of the beautiful Welsh countryside, the Show features an impressive display of pedigree and commercial livestock, farming practices and ancillary industries of Wales. 

Other stops and highlights

  • 2 days in London, including an optional half-day guided tour of the city. 
  • Visits to sheep farms near Oxford, Wiltshire and a Welsh Hill Farm.
  • Sheep sale at Welshpool, Wales.
  • The mysterious and ancient site of Stonehenge.
  • A full day at the CLA Game Fair at Ragley Hall, which features traditional British “country sports.” 
  • Hidcote Manor Garden in the Cotswold area.
  • Free time to explore the old “Wool Town” of Cirencester and the historic town of Bath.
  • Entrance and tour of the Brecon Wool Processing Center. 
  • Guided tours of the city of London, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. 
  • Shopping opportunities in Oxford, Cirencester, Bath and other quaint towns.

Price is $3150 per person (excludes airfare). 

For more information contact: 
Cheyenne Miller
(800) 282-6631
or (319) 653-9636

Lambing Season 2013

Carl dressed to the 9's (degrees that is) and finishing morning chores in the lambing barn.  
The weather of late has been hovering around a balmy 0°F in the morning to a sweltering 15°F in the afternoon. And lambing season is starting for us (funny how cold weather and lambing seem to coincide).

This year our experiment is using a former warehouse as a lambing barn. This new "barn" offers protection from the elements as well as the option of heat (a real treat). There are some kinks that need to be worked out: feeding, watering and ventilation.

For feeding, the farm guys have been busy building single-sided feeders (using our plans and panels of course). They're arranged to form an alleyway, which allows someone to walk down the center and drop feed to the ewes w/o the need to get into the pen (which is nice since many are carrying twins or triplets.

bucket placed in a Premier single-sided feeder. The clip was replaced with a Premier bucket holder for added stability. 
Our normal lambing barn (which will still be used this year) has a PVC pipe that carries water the length of the lambing barn. The pipe has cut-outs (so the animals can drink) and flows continuously (so risk of freezing is reduced). A pipe will be installed in the "new" barn. Until then, ewes will be watered via buckets. Fortunately, there is a water hydrant and hose in the building so the guys won't have to haul individual buckets. The farm guys are experimenting with placing a water bucket (held in place with clips) in the feeder and at an angle. They're also trying different sizes and shapes (square vs round) to determine the optimal bucket for this setup.

There are some ventilation issues to work out—the building was not originally designed as a barn. Keeping livestock in the building will bring in considerable moisture. We'll have to be vigilant about clean bedding and getting clean air into the barn. We're planning on installing a vent pipe, it's just a matter of what size and where.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Before you build a fence…

For some folks it’s winter which means when they’re not enjoying chores in the icy wind, they’re inside by the fire thinking about their dream fence. But before they build, they need to take into account the following:

1. Will the fence be moved? If so, how often?
  • Daily or weekly—Temporary or very portable design must be quick to install or remove. To eliminate the need for large end and corner posts, the fence strands, whether single, multiple or a mesh (netting) must be electrified and under minimal tension.
  • Once per season—Semi-permanent can be an interim barrier until a more permanent fence is installed. This allows folks to field-test fence and gate locations to see what works best. It usually consists of electrified net or multiple electrified strands under low tension (supported by stronger posts than temporary fences). Will need more attention than permanent fences.
  • Never moved—Permanent fences for boundary and subdivision fences for land that's owned by the user (and whose usage is not likely to change). Requires strong wood, steel or fiberglass posts which support high-tensile wires, woven wire, rope or wide tape (one or more strands are electrified). More reliable than other options but more $$ to install. May require a professional installer. 
2.  What is the fence’s location?
Is it flat? Or does it go over hills and ditches as well as around curves? Is it covered with brush, trees or open grass? Are the soils rocky, very soft, sandy or firm? The optimum fence design often hinges on the answers to these questions. 

Depending on the shape of the area to be fenced, extra posts will be needed at corners, curves and major directional changes. 

3. Is it a lane or corral fence?
These situations often force animals into contact with fences. Such fences need better visibility, high strength and if possible, no hot wires. 

4. Do the animals know the fence?
  • Local animals and wildlife get to "know" a fence by appearance, site and "pain memory." If it's a strong or painful fence, they avoid it. 
  • On the other hand new animals just off a truck/trailer often charge into permanent fences and straight through temporary or semi-permanent fences. That’s why strong, tall and visible permanent fences are essential for receiving corrals and feedlots. 
  • Temporary fences that are not physically strong pose the greatest risk of escape to newly acquired animals. It pays to train them to it inside of a permanent fence. 
Do not keep animals of the same species on opposite sides of the fence. They will try to join their companions. Animals of different species (above) is perfectly acceptable. 

5. What specific animals need to be fenced in or out?—Always design and build the fence for the most difficult species. Some rules of thumb:
  • Most sheep and goat fences will stop cattle. The inverse is not always true. 
  • Fencing adult males (bulls, rams, stallions, boars and billies) in/out requires taller fences with closer wire/strand spacing and more powerful electric pulses. 
  • Fences for mixed sizes (ewes with lambs, cows with calves) need more strands than uniform animal groups. 
  • Certain breeds need better fences (e.g. flighty Romanov sheep, tall Columbia sheep, Chianina Cattle). 
6. Should you energize the fence? It usually pays to do this. Why?
  • A hot strand has a zone of pain around it. So fewer strands are needed if one is energized. Both the material and the labor to install is reduced. 
  • Energized fences last longer and require less maintenance—because animals do not crowd, rub or scratch on them. So the fence wires (including wires that are not energized) require less tension to do their job. Braces and corner posts will also last longer. 
  • Animals are more surely contained and excluded during breeding and weaning. 
  • A non-energized fence increases the risk of animal entanglement and possible death. It is extremely important that a fence is energized.
7. How keen will animals be to breach the fence line? Build for the worst case situation you can afford to do so. Situations below:
  • Hunger. Starved animals will eventually challenge most fences. 
  • Weaning. Strong physical barriers are needed to cope with separation. 
  • Breeding. Libido induces all creatures to challenge rules (and fences). 
  • Boredom. Animals in corrals, stalls and lots craze any form of entertainment. 
  • Gateways and handling yards. Animals often push each other into fences when being moved about. 
  • Goats. Without a doubt they are clever and creative escape artists. 
  • Fear and fright. Predators or loud noises can cause prey species to run in terror straight into, under, over or through any fence, no matter the design (netting, hi-tensile or woven wire). 
8. How visible should a fence be?
It depends. Horses, deer and antelope move at high speed and have restricted color perception (compared to humans). They may not see small fence wires such as HT wire, MaxiShock or some polywires. So the may charge right into them. 
That's why it's wise to include rope or tape (both highly visible) in certain fences.

HT fences (such as the one above) are not easily visible to horses and are thus unsafe!

9. Are long dry periods common?
Electric fences typically rely upon soil moisture as a conductor. When the soil is dry or covered in dry snow, normal electric fences and low impedance energizers may not work. 
Solutions for this are:
  • Use a wide impedance energizer. They’re less affected by dry soil. 
  • Integrate earth-return wires (connected to the energizer's negative terminal) into the fence. Animals must touch two strands but it works well. 
Consult Premier if you have any questions regarding dry soil fencing.

Netting weighed down by freezing rain. 

10. Will heavy snow or ice occur? 
Enough ice can bring down the strongest power lines, so all fences are vulnerable. But some cope better than others. Are your animals likely to penetrate the fence before the ice melts.

11. What is the cost if the fence fails?
The high the potential cost (in time, money) of a failure, the more reliable the fence design should be. Examples:
  • Along public highways. In some states the land owner is liable for damages to both vehicles and humans. So owners in these areas must build better fences to reduce risk. 
  • Around stored feed. If animals gorge on grain, death may occur. 
  • Protect high-value. e.g. crops, gardens, orchards or young tree plantings from deer. Protect poultry/sheep/goats from goats from dogs, coyotes, etc. 
  • Fences with animals on both sides. Mix-ups are time consuming. They're very costly if the animals breed or spread disease. Neighborhood relations can be strained. Lawsuits may occur. 
To help determine the right fence for you, consult a Premier Fence Catalog (or request one) or talk to Premier directly. Our email is and our phone # is 1-800-282-6631.