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.