I took one one month off of youtube, installed $2484 in electric fencing and watering systems, all in hope of $225K return. I am grazing a flock of 30 ewes-lamb pairs, 6 cow-calf pairs, 6 beef steer for grassfed beef, 2 rams, and a bull… all on 23 acres of pasture in North East Texas. That’s 75 animals on 23 acres.
To me, this sounded like too many animals for 23 acres… so overwinter I pursued a lease agreement for my neighbors 15 acres… with no success.
In the midst of my pursuit of MORE pasture I was reading the book “Quality Pasture” by Allan Nation.
On page 93, Allan Nation talked about 2 men who achieved a stocking rate of one beef cow per acre through intensive pasture management… these men ran their ranches within 60 miles of my exact location. This stocking rate included all the land necessary to produce supplemental hay over winter. To quote “The financial success of these men’s enterprises spawned 2 dozen imitators in the men’s home county….”
At that point I decided I wanted to try my hand at becoming the 13th success story.
So I put a pause on my quest for more land, and shifted my focus to further increasing the potential this 23 acres held.
My Goal: 1 Cow Per Acre
Over the past 2 years of grazing I had seen enough production capacity in my pasture to know this stocking rate was a reasonable possibility for me.
7 sheep equal the weight of one beef cow, therefore the 75 animals I just mentioned is the equal to 18 beef cows. My current stocking rate is the equivalent of .8 beef cows per acre.
I am going to give you some climate specs that make this stocking rate a possibility for me.
Specs on my climate in North-East Texas:
|North-East Texas:||US. National Average:|
|Precipitation:||46 inches||30.28 inches|
|Days of Sunlight:||227||205|
(included in precipitation):
|1.2 inches||28 inches|
|Avg Winter Low:||32 Fahrenheit||varies.|
National Climate Report – Annual 2020
In my previous rotational grazing program I would move my animals daily 4 months out of the year, and once a week for the remaining 8 months. I have a full time job and my old infrastructure made daily moves a chore. Every time I moved animals, I was also moving a handful of portable charger elements, manually toting water to 1/2 of the paddocks, and frequently troubleshooting a solar charger outage. This meant that 8 months out of 12 I was only moving my animals once a week.
Knowing the daily moves were essential to reaching my cow per acre carrying capacity goal, I bit the bullet and made the following upgrades….
Think big, Start Small.
Before I dive into all of the upgrades I made with $2500, I want to say this: I started with a $250 system which included a solar charger I found in my parents garage, a 4′ ground rod, polytape on a $10 plastic reel, and a handful of $1.50 step in posts. Some would call this a mediocre setup, but guess what? It worked. That $250 setup was the springboard for everything you see in my videos.
Starting small is better than not starting at all: get started with whatever you have and don’t be ashamed of it. Take the smallest possible step toward your large scale goals and see where the Lord takes it. It’s what I did 2 years ago and I have never regretted it for a moment.
My Upgraded Electric Fencing System:
If you would like a detailed list of all of the supplies I used for this project, click on the link below and I will send you a PDF with electric fence supplies, watering system components, and where to buy them.
Primary Electric Fencing Upgrades:
- Installing 1 mile of continuous hotwire on my existing barbed wire perimeter fence.
- Installing a 12 Joule Cyclops Fence charger.
I made $1942 in upgrades to my existing perimeter fence. This cost includes 5000′ of high tensile wire, hand tools for tensioning and splicing wire, wraparounds for corner post, insulated tubing for under gate passes and areas where I will lay the hotwire under ground rather than on the fenceline. I reused existing 6′ ground rods by removing previously sunk rods from the ground (which was possibly the hardest 6 hours of the whole 40+ hour process… haha!).
But the biggest upgrade (and portion of the cost) was my 12 JOULE* cyclops AC* charger.
Major credits to ValleyFarmSupply.com for having the BEST selection of electric fence chargers. They carry every brand from cyclops to speedrite to gallagher, so whatever your preference they are your one stop shop!!!
*Joules refers to the power output of an electric fence charger. The more joules output, the more shock it will give to any animal that disrespects it’s boundaries.
*AC means the charger is powered by a plugging in to a wall outlet.
My Old fence charger vs. my New fence charger:
Last spring I upgraded from the charger I found in my parents garage to a 1.2 Joule Speedrite charger attached to a 12V battery. This was a much needed step up from the .25 Joule solar charger, but still didn’t quite pack the punch I needed for long term. I would routinely find my battery had drained, the charge weakened, and the sheep escaped.
You guys might look at the $530 pricetag on the 12 Joule charger and say, “never!!”. But #1 (if you are going to use polytape over netting) sheep need this kind of power, and #2: the price of the 12 V battery ($100), the speedrite charger ($224), and the automotive battery charger ($350, which was not an expense for me since my dad let me use his) is about $674 total.
If you are working on 10-20 acres and don’t plan to grow, you could easily get away with the Cyclops 5 joule unit for $246.
Once it is installed the Cyclops charger is 10x more powerful and 10x less work on a daily basis. This 12 Joule charger system will service 30-50 acres, giving me room to grow (I’m still praying for access to that 15 acres next door).
Solar vs. AC Fence Chargers
The advantage of solar (or 12V battery powered) electric fence charger is portability. These chargers allow you to power a paddock with almost zero infrastructure in place. You can move the charger unit from paddock to paddock and plug it straight into the poly wire, tape, or netting. This means you can bypass the time it takes to install that infrastructure and begin grazing immediately… which is what I did for 2 years.
The advantage of an AC electric fence charger, is lower cost, durability, and reliability of shock once it is properly installed and connected to a perimeter wire. A 12 Joule solar charger costs $1400 and my 12 Joule AC charger is priced at $530. As long as you maintain the fuses, an AC charger will last for decades, whereas the panel on solar units have a shorter lifespan. A properly installed AC unit powers fence all day every day, whereas solar chargers may lose their juice on a cloudy day.
This $1942 also included the following Rotational Grazing Supplies:
- 2 Taraposts. (reel stands) Shoutout to Cliff Honnas Regenerative Rancher Channel for sharing about this tool!
- 2 Geared reels.
My Upgraded Watering System:
- Laying 1500′ of Polyethylene tubing.
- Installing a Jobe Mega Flow on my 100 gallon trough.
My new watering system is simple but effective and cost $572 . For my small acreage watering system I used three 500′ lengths of polyethylene tubing with plastic hose fittings on one end and Plasson quick couplers on the other. I attached these 500′ lengths to existing hose access points at farm HQ. I have 3 cross fenced pastures and these 500′ hoses reached, roughly, to the middle of each of each pasture. My daily rotational grazing paddocks are setup in a pie configuration. With my water at the middle, each paddock has water access without me moving the trough once! The 100 gallon trough has a Jobe float connected to for auto refilling.
But what did I mean by $225K return?
The cost of land in East Texas is going through the roof. That 15 acres I had hoped to gain grazing rights to has a market value of $225-300K in 2022. By investing $2400, 45 hours and subsequent intensive grazing management, I am setting my 23 acres up for an additional 15 acres (or $225K) worth of productivity.
And THAT is it! I have been grazing with these upgrades for a few weeks now and it is amazing the difference it is making. I am able to perform the daily moves between dinner and dark, moving all 75 animals within 30-45 minutes with no heavy lifting. I can quickly plug in to 12 joules and fill a 100 gallon trough from a hose… no matter where I’m at on the farm!! It feels like a dream and was so worth the nearly crippling exhaustion that was 40+ hours of brush clearing and fence installation… haha!
Still in Test Mode:
Will this work? I plan to keep you updated with the ongoing answer. If all goes well, I plan to give this project with a monthly grazing update here on the channel. The first update is in the works and will cover March and April and the challenges brought on by a winter drought… Ironically, it was an extreme drought that hit my county right after I had committed to doubling my animal units via grazing this cow herd. There were some adjustments I had to make going into spring grazing in light of the drought and I look forward to sharing them with you.
In all, this experiment goes deeper. If you watched this previous video (link), you will know that my primary enterprise is Dorper sheep… they are the money maker in my farm business plan. In order to get my micro ranching operation to significant income levels, I need to raise 80-100 purebred Dorper breeding ewes. 80-100 breeding ewes is a 12-15 beef cow equivalent. This experiment will give me an idea of whether or not the carrying capacity of my 23 acres will support my business goals.
The Cattle in my grazing program were undertaken in a custom grazing arrangement. I will be retaining the herd through at least September to put some of the practices in this book, “Quality Pasture” in place. Things like sowing winter pasture and keeping grass vegetative over summer. This herd accounts for 7 of the 15 animal units in my grazing system. If at any time I see this project is not doing good things for my land base, they will be destocked and my primary focus (sheep) remains unaffected.
I hope this information helps!
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” Luke 14:28