My heifer Dorrie and the unweaned calves were out and prancing through the snow near the cabin when I got to the farm yesterday afternoon. Arrrgh!

I had (cross my fingers) figured out what was shorting the barn electrical system. After replacing almost every piece of lead cord, I happened to notice that the heat tape on the water hydrant had popped free of the top of its tape and six inches was hanging loose. On inspection I found toothmarks puncturing the casing, exposing the copper wire to the elements.

Dorrie! She is sixteen months old and the mouthiest calf I’ve ever raised. Clearly, somehow she managed to lean over the trough, suck the end of the tape into her mouth, and teeth on it. Of course I am grateful that she didn’t electrocute herself, chewing on an electric wire. However I’m also aggravated by the destruction of a $40 tape … as well as dumbfounded that Dorrie could be the daughter of my perfect cow, Katika. I try to remember Katika’s heifer days. Surely she must have had moments of naughtiness. But I don’t recall a single one.

Meanwhile, ever since I removed the heat tape Wednesday night, the electrical system has not failed. The calves were out yesterday due to a different problem. For some reason, though the energizer on the wall is pulsing, there is no charge in the fence. Zero. The electric lines are dead strings and the calves are simply pushing through them.

This morning I plan to do chores in the dark so that the minute the sun is up I can be poring over the fence, inch by inch, to find the problem. The only other option is to keep all the livestock in the barn today. I can’t have calves on the highway.

Just when I think I might be gaining on my list, the list gets longer.

*     *     *

For the past two days Lucy’s little dog Toby has had a mysterious digestive ailment which has required multiple trips outside on a leash in the middle of the night. Last night I was just crawling back under the covers after one of these trips when he returned to my bedside, whining piteously, making it clear that his misery was so terrible that only having my company in Lucy’s bed (Lucy is away at school) would soothe him. I staggered into Lucy’s room and he spent the rest of the night curled in the small of my back, sleeping much more soundly than I did.

3 Responses to Arrrghhh!

  1. Amy says:

    I know all to well the frustration of shorted fencing. We have a 7-month old bull calf who keeps testing ours, and while he can’t get out of the barbed wire surrounding the perimeter of our property, he continuously crosses into the two hotwire-only places we try to keep the cattle out of. We have a couple of issues: weak splices and a calf who is not halter trained and hasn’t therefore been forcefully “educated” about hot wires. (We have a new baby and no time to train.)

    We have done three things to help ourselves this week. First, DH fixed two old, weak gate handles with new ones and corrected the faulty splices with good ones. Then I bought an installed something called the Patriot Fence Alert, which hangs on a hotwire and blinks bright red (supposedly visible for a mile) when the fence charge is lower than the Fence Alert setting. This eliminates the guessing and aimless wandering. I also drilled a hole in a sturdy metal pie plate, threaded a thin wire through the hole, and hung the plate from the hotwire where the calf most frequently crosses. I’m hoping curiosity will win out and he’ll check the plate out with nose or tongue and train himself. (They also make a tool that apparently tells you in which direction the short is from where you test, which could be useful for you. Our electric fence is only on our home (sacrifice) pasture, which is about 2.5 acres and easily walkable.

  2. Nita says:

    When my energizer was working, (or so I thought) and the naughty calves were getting out, it ended up being a fuse that needed replacing. I’m hoping it’s something simple like that in your case.

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Amy and Nita, thank you both so much for your encouragement and suggestions. I could not figure out what was wrong with the fencing so I decided it was general fatigue with old wiring, and replaced it. I may have “over-corrected” but I could not find one single problem that could have caused the entire fence to go dead. Now it works! Deo Gratias.

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