Marble Creek Acres

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Knock you on your butt, electrified fencing to protect your herd

Fencing that runs through wooded areas is always susceptible to being damaged by falling trees and limbs. Repairs must be made quickly.
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the December issue of Goat Rancher (pages 16 & 18).

Featured in the December issue of Goat Rancher (pages 16 & 18).

As December and ultimately Winter approaches in the Northeast, I find myself making lists and checking them twice, to see who has been naughty or nice! Wait, that isn’t quite the right list. Instead, I am meticulously working through our farm-related to-dos … well let’s face it, I like to believe I am anyways. I am always trying to check off an item or two a night and a few items over the weekend, with the hopes of being prepared for the cold months better than I was last year and better than the year before and so on, with special attention to the protection of my herd. For me, that also means rushing around trying to get another item done before it gets dark each night. I am a firm believer that if I can squeeze in just one more item each day, that the list the next day is that much shorter, and eventually the list is gone. Maybe a pipe dream?!? That doesn’t mean you should cut corners but I do like to set a goal and try to pick up the pace to get it all done before it is super cold outside. Unfortunately, rushing around to get your list completed, sometimes leaves room for a short story. A digression, to provide some smiles before continuing on the topic of protecting the herd.

Bonding -- I think bonding is an important part of team and community building … and laughter at each other’s expense is even more important. I also believe that with so many of us working several jobs, filling a variety of roles at home and work, or wearing multiple hats, it is always great to come up for a short breath to be amused at the expense of one another. So with that said … chores are an important part of the daily routine but when you’re trying to check off one more item you are left with rushing around to get the chores done before the sun goes down. So without further ado, a little later than this time last year, I broke a dozen eggs, carrying them in from the chicken coop. It was super icy, we had about two inches of rain followed by three inches of fluffy white snow. To say the least, it was a mess.

So imagine a good size fella, doing a bit of a Wile E. Coyote backwards slip, running in place, as my feet become airborne and leave the earth, achieving more than four feet in the air, parallel to the ground, eyes to the sky, the bucket full of precious cargo, swinging in a long loop over my head and me losing my grip on it about 45 degrees behind my head and the bucket and all the eggs flying through the air and crashing to the ground an instant before I smashed to the ground on my backside?!? Not pretty. No egg in my face as some might wish but soaking wet and no more eggs to bring in or to sell to our local community. Definitely amusing for Kathy and Amelia, who had the chance opportunity to watch it all in slow motion. You’re supposed to ask are you ok?!? But you can’t help but laugh out loud first because seeing anyone defy the rules of gravity, even if for only a few seconds, is funny. Did I mention I was wearing those ice walker-anti slip spring things on my boots? Not much help were they, for the amateur pole vaulter. With that said, be safe, while you are working on those chores, getting ready for the winter, and in my case working through a list of to-dos to make sure the herd is protected from Maine predators.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Checking the integrity of my electric fences is always on my list but as more and more unstable weather fronts seem to be coming through at this time of year, we find ourselves out repairing damaged fences more and more. Just this weekend we were out cutting three, 12-15” diameter, trees off the fences after a recent rain and wind storm. Our fences are not only critical for keeping in our Kikos but they are even more critical for keeping predators out as we currently do not maintain a pack of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) for protecting our herd. Yes, you read that right … NO LGD pack currently.

We have a variety of predators that our herds might be faced with throughout the year. Fun fact, although likely not considered a top predator, there are no poisonous snakes in Maine. Yippee, one less animal to watch out for when we are trekking around the ranch. We do have one of the largest black bear populations at 30,000, bobcat, coyote, fox, lynx, weasels and fisher. Unofficially, mountain lion or cougar have been seen fairly often in our neck of the woods but as I noted, not officially an animal documented in the state of Maine. We also have some super big coyotes. The sort that makes you look twice when you come across them. You know they can’t be wolves, although there are wolf packs just across the border in Canada. Still, these canines are quite a bit larger than coyotes. More and more videos, images and sightings of Eastern Coyotes or Coywolves have begun to surface. The coywolf is a hybrid cross between the Eastern wolves of the Great Lakes region and the Western coyotes. I suspect we have a few Coywolf starting to run around the region as well.

Like many farms, ranches or acreages, we are faced with making the decision to take on additional costs to have a pack of LGDs, guard donkeys or guard llamas. Of course, there are many that would suggest guard donkeys or llamas just aren’t the same as having dogs, like Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd or Great Pyrenees to guard or protect the herd from predators. I am not here to defend or debate the pros and cons of using any of them. In our case, we opted for heavy-duty fence chargers, 16 Joule or better. The sort of fence that knocks you on your butt to deter predators and keep our goats from wandering. Of course, a happy goat typically doesn’t test fences unless they are in rut but better safe than sorry. We know it isn’t a perfect solution but so far we have had decent luck keeping predators at bay, even the occasional human!

As many might say, chickens are the gateway animal to farming and often lead to other endeavors. It did for us. Although we only have anecdotal evidence to date, what we noticed is that in the years leading up to having Kikos, when we just had chickens, we lost 3-4 chickens a year to fox. After putting in an electric fence to keep the goats in, we stopped losing chickens to predation almost completely, having only two lapses. Once when we had a near lightning hit that took out our fence charger for a few days and the second when we had a bottom line that was found to be too high off the ground, allowing a fox to come in unobstructed. During that time we lost a couple of chickens but nothing like we had in previous years. As I said, only anecdotal, but it leaves us with making sure we maintain the integrity of our fence to assure the protection of our goats from predators.

I can’t say that knock you on your butt electrified fencing will work for everyone in keeping out predators, in all cases. If moose were a predator we would be in trouble because we have had them stroll through the top strand and stretch it until it breaks. We have just found, to date, it works for us on a small acreage in rural Maine. That doesn’t mean I do not constantly have getting LGDs on my mind to better protect my investment either. The integrity of your fence should always be top of mind to ensure the safety of your herd, whether keeping predators out or keeping your herd inside the fence. No solution is perfect. Each situation needs a plan that represents the threats that are typical for the region to ensure the success of your operation.

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, questions or if you have topics you might like to read about in a future Goat Rancher, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email [email protected] or