Thursday, December 18, 2014

Heat Lamps

Premier's Prima Heat Lamp in use with young orphan lambs

It's heat lamp season. With the cool to cold weather folks are looking for ways to keep baby lambs and chicks warm. Thus they're relying on heat lamps. We've re-designed our original heat lamps to be significantly more formidable.

  • Easier grill attachment. Instead of snapping on the grill, new design twists on. 
  • Improved chimney system: reduces heat pockets at the top of the lamp. 
  • Glass reinforced material: greater strength and more resistance to higher temperatures (holds up to long use of 250w bulbs). 
  • Shorter length: can be held higher on short wire panels. 
  • Anti-chew cord. 
  • Strong attachment design. Use a heat lamp clip to connect to wire panels. This is significantly stronger than most heat lamp connections you will find.  

Brooding chicks with a Prima Heat Lamp and Heat Lamp Stand


  1. Tie or clip them securely—particularly if adult sheep, goats or pigs are exposed to them. A lamp that falls onto animals or bedding has consequences that can be very serious—including a fire. 
  2. Use PAR glass (pressed glass) bulbs. Far more durable than common heat bulbs. 


  1. For sheep, goats and other non-poultry livestock—don't hang them closer than 20" from bedding or baby animals that can't move away from them. You can hang closer than 20" when brooding chicks, as long as excess heat has a place to escape and the birds are comfortable spread throughout the brooder.  
  2. Don't enclose them in barrels or similar small spaces. The heat must be allowed to move away from the lamps. 
  3. Don't use heat lamps any longer than necessary. (We hear reports of folks using them continuously for 2-3 months.) Lambs and kids only need extra heat when they are weak or wet newborns or suffering from hypothermia. We start weaning chicks off of lamps when they're close to fully feathered. 
For more information on shed-lambing, check out this article on our Guide to All Things Sheep

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lambing Jugs

With lambing season already here for many, a few of the questions we've answered have pertained to lambing jugs. Our lambing system tends to shift from year to year but one of the constants is our use of lambing jugs for indoor lambing.

Q. How big should they be for different breeds? 
A. Usually the following:
  • Small breeds—4'x4'
  • Medium breeds—5'x5'
  • Large breeds—5'x6' or 6'x6' 

Q. How tall should they be?
A. Use your own judgement. Ewes that are flighty or are jumpers, taller panels are recommended. For calmer ewes, shorter sides are acceptable. 

Q. Should they be open or solid?
A. Solid sides have merit in older drafty barns—they block drafts. 
For barns that are not as drafty or if lambing in warmer weather, open sides allow the ewe to see other sheep (in our experience, this helps to calm them). 

Q. How long should the ewes stay in them?
A. Standard for most flocks is 1-3 days. 
  • Big healthy single lambs—1 day in the jug 
  • Twins—2 days
  • Triplets—2-3 days

Q. What is the best bedding to use?
A. A variety of bedding types can be used. We have more or less used them all. 
  • Straw is probably the best/easiest to get (Around $3.25-$5 bale). 
  • Wood shavings are soft and work well but cost a little more ($6-$10 per bale locally).
  • Corn stalks, though rough, are cheap and plentiful in our area. 
  • Corn cobs work well if available. 

Q. What is the best way to water ewes in the jug?
A. We have a few different systems in place for watering our ewes. 
  • The first is a PVC pipe that runs the length of the barn. Holes are cut into the pipe every 4'-5' to allow ewes access to the water. Water constantly flows through the pipe which keeps it from freezing. 
  • For pens not next to the water pipe we use individual buckets
  1. Buckets are filled via a hose. The shepherd walks along the jugs and tops off the buckets. 
  2. A large stock tank is filled and buckets are taken out of the pens, filled by dipping into the tank and returned to the jug. (In talks for being put into practice this year, not official yet.)
Q. How do we feed them in the jug?
A. Welded wire bale feeders, square buckets, BYO feeders and even tile drainage tube have been used in recent years.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Understanding a forage report

Not sure whether the bale in the feeder is providing the ewes what they need? Run a forage test to find out what's really in there. 

The majority of my Monday involved taking advantage of the final hours of 2014's short sleeve weather. The goal? Take core samples of our baleage before winter's chill sets in. The core samples were then sent to a forage lab where the results would tell us everything we wanted to know about our baleage and then some more.

Why wait until November to take? We made baleage, which needs a few weeks to cure before it's considered ready. Our last batch was made in mid-September, so I waited until those bales were ready and tested all the batches in one go.

Results came back Wednesday and I had to remind myself of what some of the terms and initialisms on the forms meant. Below are a few of the terms that can be found in a forage report. If you have any questions, I suggest talking to one of your extension nutritionists. They know these terms pretty well (and they don't have to look them up either).

Glossary of (basic) terms:

ADFAcid Detergent fiber. The least digestible fiber (higher the number the poorer the forage).
Ashmineral content of the feed (inorganic matter in the feedstuff). 
Crude Protein—nitrogen from protein as well as non-protein nitrogen sources such as ammonia, DNA and RNA. 
DMIestimated level of intake an animal must consume of a ration that contains the energy concentration recommended by nutrient tables.
Dry mattereverything in the feed except water
Fatamount of crude fat in the forage.
Lignincomponent of cell walls that is indigestible.
Moistureamount of water in the forage.
NDF—Neutral detergent fiber, makes up the bulky part of the plant. 
NEG(net energy for gain or growth) estimate of energy available used for weight gain once maintenance is achieved.  
NEL(net energy for lactation) estimate of energy available for lactation after needs for maintenance have been met. 
NEM(net energy for maintenance) estimate of available energy to keep the animal as is.
NFC—Non-fibrous carbohydrates (sugars, starches)
pHmeasure of acidity or alkalinity.
RFVrelative feed value. 100 is considered average. 
Soluble Proteinprotein that is able to be broken down in the rumen.
TDNtotal digestible nutrients. Also a measure of the energy value of the feedstuff. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Plug-in Energizer Tips

A HotShock 5 Plug-in energizer kit. Everything that is needed to operate a fence 100' from an outlet. 

How do you energize a fence if it is 100'± from an electrical outlet? Here is the kicker—you are unable to use a battery or solar energizer setup. Only plug-in.

For some, their first instinct is to use an extension cord from the outlet to the energizer. We do not recommend this option. There are a few reasons—

  1. Safety. If an animal chews on the cord, that is a direct connection to 110v AC (much different than a pulse from an energizer). 
  2. Extension cords are unable to provide consistent power (vary depending on the cord). Also—connecting multiple extension cords increases the overall resistance of the electrical circuit. The energizer may not receive the amount of energy it needs. 
  3. For some energizers (mostly AC/DC units) the plug-in adapter (called a brick) is usually not weather resistant.  
What's the best option for energizing your fence? Run an insulated lead-out wire from your energizer to your fence. MaxiShock Double Insulated Cable or DCPIW34 is recommended to carry the pulse from the energizer to the fence. The cable can be buried or set along your yard. 

If burying the cable in a high traffic area (i.e. beneath a driveway) run the cable through conduit. This will significantly reduce the amount of pressure the cable experiences. 

If not buried and you need to mow:
  • Turn off your energizer and disconnect the cable. 
  • Gather the cable as you would rope to take it out of the mower's path. 
  • Mow. 
  • Unwind cable and reconnect to energizer. 
  • Turn on the energizer. 
  • Test fence. 
If you have any questions on using energizers or fencing please contact us at 800-282-6631 or

A quick tip for using vaccine—

When drawing vaccine, be sure to only stick clean needles into vaccine bottles. Using a dirty needle (one that has been used on animals) contaminates the vaccine. Always use a brand new needle to draw vaccine.
Discard any unused vaccine that remains in syringes or draw-off tubes (do not return to vaccine vial).
Read more for additional information on vaccine handling.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, PA

Premier's booth at the 2014 Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA. 

Another Mother Earth News Fair has come and gone. This latest was in Seven Springs, PA (which happens to double as a ski resort in the winter). Cool weather was predicted so I packed up a few extra layers of wool socks and flannel shirts (is there a better combination in existence?). I made sure to wear at least one article of wool clothing each day (two if you count both feet). Why wool? Premier is a sheep company at it's core, it would be bad form to wear something acrylic (oh the horror!). Also wool is warm even when wet—and rain was in the forecast.

The show was scheduled for a long weekend (Friday to Sunday) so I needed to trek out early Thursday. After leaving Iowa before first light and traveling many miles and toll roads later I arrived in PA just in time to set up the booth for Friday's show. Fortunately the show started at noon on Friday, so I could have daylight for any finishing touches on the booth. Once finishing touches were completed, I was ready for the start of the fair. A few of the items I brought along were netting, our new Heat Lamp Plus, ChickBox, Heating Plate, Chick Stand,  QuickClean waterer with legs, FiberTuff Posts and a few PRS 50 Solar Energizer units (I gave one away Sunday as a door prize).

The booth before the show started on Friday. Two of the straw bales would later be broken up to stop the scourge of an impromptu flood. 

High-points and interesting tidbits from the fair:

  • Despite rainy weather on Saturday, turnout was excellent. Wool socks certainly earned their keep. 
  • Folks wanted to keep everything from rabbits to cattle in and rabbits to bear out. There was mixed consensus on rabbits (some raise them for meat while others want them out of the garden). 
  • It was unanimously agreed that bears should be kept out. 
  • I spoke with someone who uses the Feral HogNet to keep in piglets. The lowest strand is 4" from the ground (2" closer than Pig QuikFence) so piglets pre-weaning were easier to keep contained. 
  • Most folks I spoke to were interested in raising poultry and goats. Other interests included cattle, bees (for honey), horses, sheep, deer (keeping out) and of course rabbits (in and out). 
  • Bedding your booth down with straw during a rainstorm keeps the mud at bay. However, though it looks immensely comfortable, it is unprofessional to nap on a bed of straw while working. No worries, I resisted the temptation, though I did envy the alpacas in the next booth sleeping on their own bed of straw. 
Speaking of Alpacas (and other fiber animals) I picked up a few skeins of yarn from the folks of Underhill Farm (a lovely lambswool), Misty Mountain Farm (alpaca) and Hopping Acres (Leicester Longwool wool). Hopefully I'll have a few surplus pairs of wool socks for the next rainy show. 

The next show will be in Topeka, KS the weekend of October 25-26. If you're in the area be sure to stop by. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Iowa Honey

A PRS and ElectroNet guarding a group of hives from pests. 

 This morning I sweetened my coffee with a spoonful of honey. The result was simply sweet and delicious. 

Honey has been on my mind since last week, after I visited with Tim Wilbanks of the Kalona Honey Company. Tim is a transplant from his home state of Georgia, where he grew up on his family's apiary. He helps out with the family apiary by hauling bees between Iowa and Georgia making deliveries of packages. Bee packages are small 3-pound boxes of bees including a queen bee—a starter kit for beehives.

While I had Tim's attention, I asked him a few questions on beekeeping and honey. 

Q. Trucking bees from Georgia to Iowa—are there acclimation issues?
A. Not really. When it's warm enough for bees in Iowa to start moving around, it's been that warm in Georgia for months. Keep in mind, if you are shipping bees to Iowa (or anywhere for that matter), shipping dates depend on the weather in Georgia. If it's warm and sunny in Iowa, but rainy and miserable in Georgia, the bee harvest might not occur and package deliveries will be delayed. 

Also, when delivering bees, the truck needs to keep moving. Bees need air and ventilation. So when delivering bees, stop for deliveries and refueling, nothing else. 

A major difference between Iowa and Georgia is the winters. Iowa winters are harsh. The 2013-2014 winter was especially harsh, and death loss hovered around 60-65%. That is 60-65% of the whole hives, not the population within the hives. Other areas fared worse (up to 80%), but the official reports have yet to come out. 
A small hive set up at the Kalona Honey Company. Notice all the dandelions? Dandelions are some of the earliest blooming flowers in spring, and their pollen serves to give bees the jump start they need for the honey-making season ahead.

Georgia on the other hand, has mild winters in comparison. A typical winter might result in 5% loss, and that's usually from predators (skunks and bears). 

To help bees through the winter, either feed them more or leave more honey for them to consume. Their feed is a sugar syrup. Some folks use high fructose corn syrup. 

Q: Cost of equipment?
A: Around $350-$400 for the hive and bees. 

Q: Recommendations for getting started?

A: Talk to your local extension agency and beekeepers in the area to find classes and seminars on beekeeping. There are a lot of good books out there as well. 

If you want to keep bees in town, check your local ordinances to make sure it's legal. Talk with your surrounding neighbors so they are aware of your hives. 

Keep in mind that there are time demands. April through May involve checking the hives to make sure the populations are healthy. In June and July, check them once every week or two. 

Harvest is in July and August—and it's time-consuming. Some maintenance is needed going into fall. After October the bees are on their own. 

Joe (left) interviewing Tim (right).

Q: What predators are a concern?
A: Bears and skunks. In the South and areas with bears* you'll see electric fences around the hives. Skunks** are bee predators too. During the winter, skunks will scratch at the side of the hive until groggy bees walk out, then they just pick them up and eat them. 

Sometimes the two-legged kind will relocate the hives. 

Q: What are some disease concerns?
A: Varroa mites. They're an external blood-sucking mite, like ticks for bees, feeding on larvae and adults. 

Also foulbrood disease, American and European. Best to isolate a hive if this occurs. 

Q: Recommended feed sources?
A:  Sweet clover and alfalfa. Some soybeans also make really good honey. And basswood and black locust trees. All have a distinct color, clarity and flavor. 

Dandelions have lots of pollen (protein), good for baby bees. It primes the pump and builds up the hive. 

By Joe Putnam, Premier Research Writer
* For areas with bears, Premier recommends ElectroNet®
** For protection from skunks, Premier recommends VersaNet®

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Marking Crayon Test

We've been thinking about breeding season since lambing season. In fact, during lambing season we were thinking about breeding season. We marked twin and triplet born ewe lambs (they're ear notched when we ear tag) and marked (with SI-RO-MARK or Sprayline) which ram lambs to keep intact.

Our breeding seasons have been a little different this year. We bred a small experimental group of ewes earlier this summer. They're due in a few weeks. Our main breeding season is just around the corner.

We're planning to breed 475 ewes this season. Rams went in May 1st with a select group of hair cross ewes. The remaining ewes will be bred in groups with plans to have breeding finished by Mid October (we're shooting to have our last lambing day on March 15th. To keep track of who has been bred and who hasn't we're using marking harnesses and raddle marker. Not exactly sure which as the farm guys haven't put the rams in with the ewes.

On a side note, we been testing the visibility of our crayons over a 24 day period. Why 24 days? We took a ewe's estrus cycle (17 days) and added in 1 week (7 days).

Day 1 of the crayon test. Colors are rich and vibrant. 
Yellow and blue were the least readable a week after marking (by hand, not by a ram). Test was at Premier in SE Iowa in July. Purple, green, red and orange were the most readable colors. 
Purple and red were the most readable. Green, blue and orange less so. Yellow the least (but still readable).

Purple and red were the most readable. Green, blue and orange less so. Yellow the least. 
Crayons were applied on an 85°+ day. Hot crayons (except for purple) were applied to the ewes by hand. A mild purple crayon was used (temp. range 65°-85°). Why a mild purple? The original purple crayon was very dark (almost black). We received a sample (note: one) of a new mild purple to see if we wanted to switch. As you can see the purple is bright (not black) and applied easily (as cold/warm crayons will do on a hot day).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Energizers: Plug-in, Battery or Solar

(left to right) Battery energizer, plug-in energizer and solar energizer. 

When choosing an energizer here is one very basic thing to keep in mind—is it going to be a battery, plug-in or solar energizer. Note: solar energizers are battery energizers with added bells and whistles. 

With that in mind, what are the differences between the two basic types?
Plug-in—power source is a 110v outlet. Permanently located. 
Battery—power source is a 12v battery. Easy to relocate. 
  • A plug-in energizer is left in one location (usually close to an outlet). An insulated cable is used to carry the pulse from the energizer to the fence. 
  • Battery energizers are typically set close to the fence and away from any convenient outlets. They draw off a 12v battery. The pulse travels through a short wiring harness to the fence. 
  • Battery energizers cost more overall b/c of the need to purchase batteries and a battery charger. 
What about solar energizers?
Solar energizers are extremely convenient to use. Fences can be set up in the middle of nowhere. Depending on hours of usable sunlight, batteries rarely need recharging (but do keep an eye on them). 
The downside is the cost. The battery, panel, case, regulator (for high output panels) add to the price tag. That and if the sun doesn't shine for multiple days (the PRS units are sized for a 4-day reserve) the voltage on the fence will drop as the battery drops below a 40% charge). But for many convenience outweighs costs, hence why solar energizers are popular. 

Which to use?
If the energizer gets to stay in one place—we recommend plug-in energizers at every opportunity. No batteries + no reliance on sun = less hassle. 

If portability is needed, use a battery energizer. 

If portability with added convenience is desired, solar is best. 

If you have questions please call us at 800-282-6631 or email

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Premier's visits Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm

During the weekend of July 19th, Sara McArtor (Premier Product Consultant) operated a booth at the Polyface Farm Field Day ran by Joel Salatin.

Sara with Joel Salatin during the show. 

Last week one of our field consultants, Sara McArtor took a trip to the Polyface Farm Field Day hosted by the Salatin Family of Swoope, VA.

The field day entailed discussions on producing beef, pork, chicken, rabbit and eggs on pasture based systems. There were also talks on composting, on-farm processing and direct to consumer marketing.

The event is held once every three years but if you're interested in the Salatin Farm, see

Demonstrating how to use and position a Premier PRS. Folks were able to register to win the PRS 50. 

The Premier booth is typically busy at shows, Polyface was no exception. 

A future farmer getting ready to peruse Premier's catalog. 

Sara demonstrating how to set up and take down netting. 

The lucky winner!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Testing at Premier

Day 1 of our marking crayon test on a group of wool ewes. 
We thought our pastures could benefit from a color other than 'lush green'. Instead of planting wildflowers, we took a more immediate approach and colored a few of our ewes with our marking crayons.

In truth, we're testing how long the marks will stay bright. We hand applied one color to 6 ewes (for a total of 36 ewes). We'll check and document color changes for 3-4 weeks.

We applied the marks in 80ยบ weather, so we used 'hot' rated crayons. Though the purple used was a mild (it's a new shade of purple and we had only one sample on hand). The mild purple crayon applied much easier and left more of a mark than the hot crayon. That serves as a reminder to use the right type of crayon for the temperature, otherwise you will wear down crayons faster than necessary.

We'll post an update at the end of the experiment.

Crayons made for 3 average daily high temperature ranges:

  • Cold: 25 - 65°F
  • Mild: 65 - 85°F
  • Hot: 85 - 100°F

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What you need to know about ground rods

Make sure ground wires are firmly connected to the ground rod. 
Ground rods may seem to be just a trivial item. After all, they're just a metal rod you pound into the ground. They seem more of an anchor for the energizer than anything else. Don't be deceived by their unassuming demeanor, ground rods are vital.

How so? Try using an electric fence without the recommended amount of ground rod (3 ft per joule of output). For example, if using a PRS 100, an energizer with 1 joule of output, pull the ground rod out of the ground by a foot or two. Check the voltage of your fence (with a fence tester). Pound the rod back into the ground. Check the voltage again. See a difference?

We've established that it's important. Next, let's look into how an electric fence works. 
  1. The energizer fence terminal sends an electric pulse through the fence's conductor(s). 
  2. An animal touches the conductor
  3. The pulse travels from the fence through the animal and into the ground. 
  4. The pulse moves through the soil (via moisture) and to the ground rod. 
  5. The pulse goes up through the ground rod and back to the energizer (via the ground rod). Completing the circuit (and the animal receives a shock, learning to stay away from the fence). 
Note: all of above happens in 1/10,000 of a second. 

So what does the ground rod do? It picks up the pulse from the ground and brings it back to the energizer. 

However, if the energizer has a stronger pulse than the rod can pick up, an electrical charge can build up around the rod. Since the full power of the pulse cannot travel through the ground rod, an animal will not receive a full powered shock. The remedy? Pour water around the ground rod to increase the conductivity around the ground rod(s), or add additional rods. 

Why is this ground rod so far out of the ground? It's likely because we are using a 1 joule energizer and a 6' ft ground. At 3' of rod needed per joule output, the full 6' is unnecessary. 
It is possible to test to see if your ground rod is not adequate. Ground out the fence—with the fence off, place a metal rod on the ground and lean it against the fence's conductors. This will cause a 'dead-short' to the ground. Using a digital voltmeter, stick the ground probe into the ground and touch the fence probe to the rod. If a reading of more than 300v appears, you need more ground rod. Under 300v, you have adequate grounding.

Connecting an energizer to its grounding system.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pos/Neg fence tips

A normal electric fence consists of:
  1. Wire(s) connected to the fence (positive) terminal of a fence energizer.
  2. The soil’s moisture connected via metal ground (earth) stakes to the negative terminal of the fence energizer.
But the top soil moisture in many areas is too low to be a reliable conductor. In this situation, the animal may receive minimal pain even though a voltmeter touching a steel spike may register 3000 plus volts.
For these sites, one solution is to connect one or more wires in the fence to a second ground stake that is then ‘connected’ via subsoil moisture to the energizer’s ground stake. So some wires are now positive and some are negative—a Pos/Neg fence.
How does the animal receive a shock?
  • On a normal all-positive electric fence, the animal completes the circuit by standing on moist soil (which is connected to the energizer via metal stakes) and touching a hot wire. The current flows down the wire through the animal’s point of contact with the wire to his feet (which are on the soil) and back through the soil moisture to the ground stake.
  • With a Pos/Neg fence, the animal completes the circuit by touching a positive wire and a negative wire at the same time.
When is Pos/Neg wiring needed?
The simplest test is to look at the grass and soil. If the grass has been brown for 3 or more weeks and the top 3 inches of soil are very dry you need it. Second test is to lay the voltmeter’s probe on the dry ground (instead of sticking it in the soil or contacting a metal stake). If less than 2000 volts appear, revert to Pos/Neg wiring. A third test (not advised) is to wait until your animals escape.
Are some energizers better in dry soil situations with all positive fences than others?
IntelliShock & Kube units are superior – particularly the IntelliShock 31 & Kube 4000. They continue to deliver an animal stopping pulse long after traditional low-impedance units (HotShockPatriot, and most other brands) have ceased to do so.
What energizers work for Pos/Neg fences?
All do. From a safety aspect, it’s actually best not to use too large a unit.
What are the negatives of Pos/Neg fences?
  • Fences must be kept very clean. Any conductor (green weed stem or tree, metal post/wire) that touches 2 opposing wires will cause the pulse to drop from powerful to ineffective.
  • An animal or person that remains in contact with both wires (positive and negative) could be killed. That’s why, in Premier’s view, offset metal hot wires should be installed high enough to allow human contact to be broken by gravity.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Common mistakes when operating clipping or shearing machines

Shearing and clipping can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It's always a surprise when peeling the fleece off a wool laden ewe and finding out how she really looks (hopefully it's a ewe in good condition).

However, if the equipment is having a fit, the ewe is kicking and bucking to get away while you're crouched over the ewe trying to hold her still while simultaneously adjusting the tension, it's not so fun.

Luckily it doesn't have to be that way. After reading the tips, tricks and hints below, the days of shearing a ewe and having the comb fall off should be long over. Don't worry, we also cover a few need-to-knows for clipping.

Clipping machine tips:

(left) The tension bolt that needs to be removed before changing blades. (right) Adjusting tension with the tension bolt.
  • Take out the tension bolt before placing blades into the clipping head. This bolt is what holds the blades to the clipping head.

  • Don't put on the bottom blade upside down. The polished side of the bottom blade (side with the name) needs to face away from the clipping head.

  • To properly set the tension on the blades—turn the tension knob until fully compressed, then loosen two full turns.

Shearing machine tips:

Keep the tips of the cutter set behind the tips of the comb. 
  • When setting up a comb and cutter, the tips of the cutter should not be even with the tips of the comb (unless using the Phantom S comb). Why? Most comb's tips are rounded. This means that if a comb and cutter's tips are even, the tips of the cutter have no surface to cut against. No cutting will occur. Refer to the manual for correctly setting comb lead. 

  • Don't put a comb on upside down. The polished side of the comb (side with the name) needs to face away from the cutter. 

  • Tighten down that comb! When you've painstaking placed the comb so the cutters sit just right, do not merely hand tighten the set screws. Use the comb screwdriver to tighten the screws. 
Tips for Tensioning:
There is no quick and easy way to tension blades or combs/cutters. The linked videos is immensely useful for setting up your combs/cutters.  

Oil - Oil - Oil!

Don't forget to frequently oil your blades, combs and cutters. Oiling cuts down on wear (the speed in which the equipment dulls) and heat buildup. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Here comes the sun…

Well, the sun has been shining on southeast Iowa for a few weeks but after a week or so of rainy weather it's a welcome sight. Especially for the gardens. While the cornfields are racing to be knee high before the Fourth of July, our garden is taking its time to reach its zenith. Until then, we weed, mulch, plant, harvest (early season veggies) and generally tend the garden.

Fencing around the garden with a few FiberTuffs, VersaNet and a PRS

We also fence. The local raccoons, wood chucks, rabbits and deer are a problem. They like our garden as much as we do. Maybe even more so, as they often abscond with the whole plant rather than just a nibble or two.

For fences we have a few options. All of which can be found here.
VersaNet 20" or 30" is the best option for short ground based pests. It has tight spacings that can stop rabbits, ground hogs, raccoons and the neighbor's dog. For taller pests (deer) there are several 5'+ nets available to deter them from demolishing a garden.

If you have any questions, send us an email to or call us at 800-282-6631.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Solar Energizer FAQs

Using a solar energizer to subdivide a pasture with Cattle QuikFence

How do solar energizers compare to other fence energizers?

  1. Their function is the same—a very brief high voltage pulse of energy.
  2. Input source is a DC battery.
  3. When the sun shines the solar panel recharges the battery—which eliminates the hassle of carrying the battery to/from a recharger.
  4. They’re larger in physical size than 110 volt energizers—because of the solar panel, battery and case.

How do solar energizers differ from one another?

  • Input needs (milliamperes per hr). 
  • Pulse energy output (joules).
  • Pulse rate per minute.
  • Size of battery (in amp hours). 
  • Size of solar panel (in watts & volts).
  • Number of days the battery will last on its own without sunlight.
  • Cost/joule of output and durability.

Energizing PoultryNet with a PRS 50.

What are the negatives of solar?

  • Most expensive per joule of output.
  • Usually lower pulse frequency than plug-in AC energizers.
  • More maintenance including: 
  1. Keeping the panel free of dust, snow and ice.
  2. Keeping the panel fully exposed to the sun—unshaded by trees, grass, thick fence posts or buildings.
  3. In winter the capacity of the battery goes down just when the amount of sunlight also goes down.
Solar energizers and electrified netting allow folks to easily graze hard to fence paddocks and pastures. 

Are solar energizers less expensive?

No. Plug-in units cost less because they don’t need a battery or a solar panel.

Are they less costly to operate?

No. The cheapest energizer to operate plugs into 110-volt AC current. 
Consider—a Kube 4000 provides 10 times more pulse energy than most farmstore solar units. Yet it uses less than 70 watts/day. That’s only $2.50 per year!
By comparison the battery in a typical farmstore solar fence energizer (1/10 the energy output of a Kube 4000) costs $24 and may need replacing every 2 years—an annual operating cost of $12.

If they cost more to buy—why are solar energizers so popular?

Because solar energizers are so easy to set up and use.
The steps are simple and few:
  1. Place unit next to the fence. Face it south at a right angle to noon sun.
  2. Clip the leadout wire (included in all PRS solar units) to the fence.
  3. Clip the other leadout wire to a ground rod, nonrusted steel post or grounded fence wire.
  4. Turn it on.
  5. Check fence for proper voltage.

So how do Premier solar energizers differ from farmstore energizers?

Premier’s energizers have much higher pulse output—from .25 to 12 joules. Most farmstore solar units vary from .04 to .17 joules—enough to stop a mature horse or dairy cow but not enough for sheep, goats, poultry and wildlife or fences that will experience weed contact. 
  1. We also offer “extreme” versions of PRS units for areas with less sunlight and/or colder temperatures—and we tell you where those areas are.
  2. Larger solar panels and batteries.
  3. Much lower cost per joule of output.
  4. Stronger case that can either be placed on the soil (summer) or hung from a post (winter).
Fencing raccoons out of sweet corn with RaccoonNet

How do solar energizers cope with sunlight variations?

Some regions receive much less sunlight than others. And hours of sunlight vary from winter to summer.

The maps below depict the differing hours of solar “insolation” for a region in winter and summer. Solar insolation is the hours of sun available per average day that has sufficient intensity to enable a solar panel to charge a battery

Two very important things to note: 

  1. The summer insolation hours (below) for all areas are much higher than winter hours. For southeast Iowa it’s 6 hours in summer and less than 3 in the winter. 
  2. The hours available are very different depending on where you live. Michigan in summer has 5 hours vs 7.5 in Arizona! 

Then why is the same solar energizer sold in both Michigan and Arizona?  

It suits mass energizer suppliers to keep things simple. 
Yes, the panel and battery are too small for Michigan (except in mid-summer) and too large for Arizona (except mid-winter). That’s why many farmstore solar energizers often fail in the winter. 
And it’s probable that the extra sunlight in the Southwest will damage the battery in the summer by overcharging it.

What powers a solar energizer at night and on cloudy days?

A DC battery. They all have one inside the case. The battery must be large enough to supply the energizer for several sunless days.

Summer vs Winter sunlight

The maps above indicate the hours of summer and winter sunlight available per average day that have sufficient intensity to enable a 12v solar panel to recharge a 12v battery (defined as the hours of solar “insolation”).

Winter Sunlight (hrs)
Summer Sunlight (hrs)

Why is this important? 

  • Because a solar energizer with the right panel and battery size for New England may overcharge a battery in Arizona unless it’s equipped with a voltage regulator. We feel that all solar panels above 15 watts should be equipped with a regulator. Overcharging destroys batteries unless a regulator is used (costly for “off-the-shelf” units so it’s rarely included).
  • Solar panels that are right for Arizona are too small for Vermont—thus reducing battery life by undercharging.
  • And a solar panel sized for summer usage may be too small for winter. Putting it simply, the same solar unit cannot fit all situations. That’s why solar farmstore energizers disappoint users so often. 
In the winter months—a PRS should be close to vertical to keep it perpendicular to the sun's rays at 12 noon. 

During the summer—a PRS should be slightly tilted toward the south to catch available sunlight. We prop one edge on top of the ground rod. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Poultry Fence 101

The seemingly endless transition from winter to spring back to winter has us wondering if we'll ever see spring again. We've been trying to wait 5 minutes for the weather to change, but as soon as we see a glimpse of spring, back to winter we go.

The fleeting glimpses of warm weather has folks getting their chickens out of the coop and into the pasture. And with that, we receive more than a few calls on PoultryNet. What follows is the basics on Premier's PoultryNet and electric fence.

What is the difference between PoultryNet and PoultryNet Plus?
Posts! PoultryNet Plus has more posts per ft than PoultryNet. PoultryNet Plus has posts every 6.8ft vs. PoultryNet's 10ft. Added posts increase net support (which reduces sagging) and aid in adapting to curves, corners and dips. Click here for more information on Plus Nets.

Double spike vs. single spike—number of ground spikes at the bottom of the post. For more information on when to use double or single spikes, click here.

Connecting two rolls of netting together—place the end posts next to one another, connect the clips at the top of the net (image above). Tie posts together with supplied strings.

Energizers and electric fence—A fence energizer is a box that takes in small amounts of electrical energy from an outside source (battery or 110 volt outlet). 

The energizer stores this energy, then pushes it out of a metal terminal (marked “fence”) in very brief, high voltage and high amperage bursts (pulses). The outbound terminal is commonly called the “positive” or “fence” terminal.

All energizers also have a second terminal (marked “ground” or “earth”) whose purpose is to absorb as much of the pulse energy as possible back into the energizer. Experts call this the “negative” terminal.

An electric fence v is an extension of the 2 terminals (fence and ground/earth) of the energizer.
The inbound (earth) terminal is extended by driving metal rods into the soil and connecting them to the earth terminal with conductive wire. 

Because soil moisture is a good conductor, this makes the subsoil for miles around (not an exaggeration) an extension of the earth/ground terminal. So animals, humans and grass are all “standing” upon an extension of the energizer’s earth/negative terminal.

The outbound/fence terminal is extended by attaching conductive wires to it. They are suspended above the soil and kept separate from the soil by insulators and/or nonconductive posts.

In short, an energizers pulse travels out from the fence terminal, along the fence, through an animal, into the soil, up the ground rod and ending at the ground terminal, this completing the circuit. 

If you have any questions about netting or energizers, please call one of our fence consultants (800-282-6631) or email (

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lamb survival: The first 24 hours

Today’s shepherds are different from those of 50 years ago. Most shepherds nowadays have very little time to spend with the lambs—an hour or so in the morning and then it's off to their day job for 8 to 10 hours. If shepherds work close to home, then they may also have a couple of evening hours to spend in the barn. 

If we can get the lamb through the first 24 hours, its chance of survival is greatly increased. Below are a few things that will help the lambs and the shepherd survive cold weather lambing. 

First of all, strong healthy lambs come from ewes that are the same. Make sure your ewes are in good shape before breeding and do not lose too much condition during gestation. Putting them on the best feed you have 6 weeks before lambing will help to make sure the ewe has plenty of milk and the lamb has a good supply of fat where he needs it. This gives the lamb the strength to get up and start nursing as soon as he is born. There is nothing better to see when you walk into the barn than a set of healthy newborn twins nursing with their tails wagging.
Create a routine that makes every minute count, beginning when you first walk into the lambing barn.
Ewes have a wax plug in their teats. In cold weather that plug can be difficult for weak lambs to suck out. So grab each ewe that lambs and strip out each teat to make sure there is plenty of milk for the lambs.
The next step is to take the temperature of each lamb. Your body temperature is 98.6, and the lambs' temp should be 102. If you put your finger into the lamb’s mouth and it feels warm, he is fine. If his mouth feels cold, you have a lamb that is in trouble.
For any lamb that is warm, all you need to do is to dip the navel into Triodine-7 to help stop infection and they should be fine.
The cold lambs need help right away. First try to get the lamb to suck for himself. If he will not, you will need to tube-feed him. I like the 140 cc syringe and plastic tube the best for this. The 60 cc is too small and must be refilled several times in order to get enough milk in the lamb. A 10-pound lamb needs 50 cc of milk every hour. By giving him a feeding of 140 cc, he has about 3 hours to gain his strength and begin to nurse on his own. Also, I do not like putting a tube down the lamb's throat too often--this can make it sore to the point where the lamb does not want to swallow. I like the plastic tube because it's easier to use on a lamb that fights you. In very cold barns the red tube is better as it will stay flexible.

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: If a lamb cannot hold its head up on its own, do not tube-feed it. Many lambs die because they are too cold and weak when being tube-fed, and they drown from the milk. You must first warm up the lamb. Put a heat lamp over the lamb until he can control his head. Then it's safe to feed him.

Heat lamps are a great source of warmth when needed, but do not overdo it. When a healthy lamb gets cold, he needs to get up and eat to stay warm. They can become too dependent on heat lamps.

To make sure the lambs have a good start, some shepherds who have the time will tube-feed every lamb that is born with colostrum from its mother. Or, you may want to use Nutri-Drench (this is not a substitute for colostrum), a product that works well to start all lambs. One pump to each lamb will give them a boost to improve their chances during the first 24 hours.

If your barn temperature is below freezing and you need to be away, put a lamb cover on each of the newborn lambs. It will help them to adjust to the cold before losing too much heat. When you return to the barn, remove the cover and the lamb should be fine.

So remember:
Feed the ewes well.
Strip out every teat.
Take the lambs' temperature.
Tube-feed when needed.
Give each lamb a pump of Nutri-Drench.
Dip all navels in Triodine-7.

Enjoy your lambing season. It does not need to be stressful.

-Gordon Shelangoski,
Premier Consultant and Product Development 

The post above originally appeared in Premier's January Sheep Newsletter