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A revolution concept in electric fencing

 
pollinator
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Hello team,

I want to put this out into the world and allow others to use it without it being commercialized--it may be fine for it to be commercialized at some point and of service, but I would rather keep the focus on the idea.

This idea is licensed under Creative Commons license:


CC Attribution Non-Commerical

Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/



Concept: invisible fencing based on rewards rather than aversive stimuli.

"Treat collars" that can be put on each herd/flock animal give a clicker sound (like that for dog clicker training) and then mechanically drop a reward treat each time the animal crosses over the threshold _into_ the desired paddock, and also at random intervals when they are _on_ the desired paddock.

Treat/clicker collar attached to herding dog can add a second layer of encouragement to the system.

Treat/clicker collars will beep intermittently like a smoke detector whenever they are low on treats.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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If this is a dumb idea, I want to hear why.  If there are other ideas I want to hear them.  

I like the idea of a commercial product being offered, since electric fencing is a commercial product that we tolerate today and that seems to create tons of problems and aggravations, labor and worry.  

I don't actually know how invisible fencing works (aside from the shock collar part, which I definitely don't want to replicate), but I think wiht the power of the Death Star we ought to be able to build something that works this way.

Invisible fencing, at the most complex, has got to be easier to move than wire, weedwack-requiring stuff, hog panels that bend and drive you nuts and bother your soil and plants as you drag them by and don't fit on a cart or wheelbarrow, etc.  (It's easier with two people, but there aren't always two people available to do this stuff).



 
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Reading one invisible fence company, it looks like it can work anywhere on the planet, uses GPS, coordinates with and requires a smartphone (so I guess a cellphone signal? or can it work over wifi locally?), and needs the battery in the collar to be recharged every day.  I think a solar charger could handle this.  

This is "Spot On Fence" (Spontonfence.com)--and they charge $1500 for their collar+app system for one dog.  

They reference earlier systems, that worked off a radius system, where there's something in the center that gives off a signal and the collar detects if the animal has gotten farther than a given radius from that something.  

The first generation fences were buried wire--very expensive to do and hard to maintain, very disturbing of soil, forgetaboutit.

I think the second generation makes the most sense, would be shiftable, could be one "something" and a bunch of collars, or even just one collar on a herding dog perhaps.

The third generation system would allow more precision, over a thousand "fence posts," etc.  So that's an advantage.  

But the price ballpark seems untenable.

The biggest downside of all three generations of invisible fencing is they say dogs need to be trained to electric fencing.  I am so tired of having to train animals to fit technology, I have no idea how long this would take or even if it would work, and it is pretty obviously going to be "aversive" (pain) training, not pleasure training, the latter of which works way better and science has proven it pretty definitely, I'm told.  

However, maybe if you're reversing this by having a treat collar instead of a shock collar, the system would reinforce much more quickly and work almost like "I managed to convince my sheep that if they just did high-density mob grazing and ignored the young growth just outside their paddock they would end up with more grass in the big picture and it would be a win-win for all of us."  (So far I haven't seen any sheep or cows posting on the rotational grazing forum).

 
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Even humans perform poorly on the one treat now, or wait and get more treats later test. The instinct to go after the treat now is strong.

Nowadays, you can know where each individual animal is. If you trained them with a reward at a dispenser, associated with a sound, you could place the dispenser station in the center of the paddock and any stray animal would get the sound from their own collar, and hopefully head back to the dispenser to get it. You could only dispense the treat when the animal approached the station to reduce waste and others robbing the treat.
 
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We look into invisible fencing sometime before we moved here and we have been here since 2013.

We still do not have any fencing since we decided against the invisible fence.

We have tried using different types of collars without success, also.

The first collar we tried was with our dog who passed away prior to our move here.

It was a collar that spray a liquid that had a smell that dogs don't like.  There was still that human factor.

I can't remember what the problem was with the second collar other than the human factor.

It will be interesting to hear if anyone has made these ideas work.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Anne Miller wrote:We look into invisible fencing sometime before we moved here and we have been here since 2013.

We still do not have any fencing since we decided against the invisible fence.

We have tried using different types of collars without success, also.

The first collar we tried was with our dog who passed away prior to our move here.

It was a collar that spray a liquid that had a smell that dogs don't like.  There was still that human factor.

I can't remember what the problem was with the second collar other than the human factor.

It will be interesting to hear if anyone has made these ideas work.



Thanks, Anne.  By "that human factor" you mean you had to train the dog to the collar first? or can you say more about the "human factor"?  Thanks

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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I guess I would also love other revolutionary idea about electric fencing.  

They don't have to be my idea, I just want them to revolutionize this, because I really, really don't like the cost of electric fencing.  In time, meanness to animals, raw materials cost, ugly factor, in so many ways it would be really great to just completely redesign this whole thing.

Some Green Hat thinking please!  

https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/lateral-thinking-a-textbook-of-creativity_edward-de-bono/251650/item/2540045/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw8uOWBhDXARIsAOxKJ2FUdVMQKkXiBB8M6fVGmMUqL1B-VHtK1_OkCIBzf-AC_DAwhbUre3QaAuVLEALw_wcB#idiq=2540045&edition=2336415
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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PO paddock shift fence has no fence.  invisible fence, stone wall, ditch that's hard to cross for animals.
PO paddock shift fence pushes animals out instead of keeping them in.  kind of already covered that territory.  some kind of pusher, slope, bone sauce.
PO paddock shift fence is made of vegetarian capsules.  Vegetarian capsules taste like sad.  Vegetarian capsules break down, albeit slowly, along with the contents of the pill.  A biodegradable material for not only the fences but also the container the fence comes in.  One less thing to get annoyed at in the shipping process.  Minimal returns.
PO paddock shift fence requires study.  Observe animals more closely.  Find out what actually makes them tick.  Pigs are nearly blind and if there's nothing they smell on the other side they won't try to cross over.
PO paddock shift fence is made of stuff.  By stuffing a lot of yummies into the fence you keep the hogs busy rooting through it.
Paddock shift fence PO compensation.  Every time the pig moves out of the paddock, the structure adjusts to compensate.  A tensegritive fence instead of a net one.  

Haven't really gotten anything good yet here other than ditches, perhaps.
 
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Ok, so how big is the bag of goodies around the neck of the animal.
I dont like to po hoo any idea, but this one may be the first.
I have worked as a jackaroo, farm hand in your parlance I think, in Australia.
I have seen invisible fencing used in domestic situations, but not on a commercial farm.

What are you trying to achieve with this system you speak of?
 
Anne Miller
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John C Daley wrote:Ok, so how big is the bag of goodies around the neck of the animal.



For a dog, it is a regular collar with a small "box" that holds the electronics and a battery like for a hearing aid.  Not bulky at all.
 
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This is an interesting concept, but I would hesitate to call it revolutionary unless you have it working.

Some concerns/thoughts:
- Solar chargers, treats, batteries, plastics, and whatnot is probably going to contain a higher number of "nasty" ingredients than an electric wire fence.
- The collars could get caught on stuff, causing problems or maybe breaking and getting lost.
- An electric fence would no doubt last much longer than the collars.
- Scale would be hard to do and more time consuming. To do 3 or 4 cows on a homestead would not be too bad, but for even 100 cows it would be a lot of work to collar all of them. Especially starting with younger animals and have to     keep adjusting or changing the collar. Can you imagine a larger herd of say 1000?
- It might teach the animals the wrong thing. Many animals are smart. Dropping a treat when they come in might teach them to keep leaving and come back wasting treats.
- What happens if the treat mechanism breaks and it doesn't drop treats to incentivize them?
- What happens if there is something just as yummy as the treat, outside the area you want them in?
- What happens if there is nothing they want in the area you want them in?
- What if they do learn it well... but then you want to move them to a new pasture, and they keep going back to the old one?

Is electric fence mean to the animals?
- Lets keep in mind that these animals are not getting shocked multiple times a day. Most animals learn quickly after 1 or two shocks and don't get shocked ever again.
- I would liken this to using a swat on the hand or a spanking to teach a child not to touch a hot stove. Is it mean to try to keep the child from a greater hurt by administering a lesser hurt? Is it mean to have a lesser hurt to the animal in order to keep it safe from coyote, wolf, bear, cougar, racoon, etc? I know that is a controversial topic, but in my opinion it is well worth a small pain now to avoid greater pain down the road.

Is there an easier way?
- With the exception of goats (who seem to be possessed by the spirit of houdini), animals don't break out of fences just to break out of fences. If they feel safe and have their needs met, they will generally hang around. If the predators are not harrassing them, if they have enough food, water, space, and entertainment they don't tend to break out. They break out when they are hungry, thirsty, bored, or scared. Planting a thick hedge of some thorny bush and making sure the animals have enough food and water and space might be enough to incentivize them to stay without needing collars or a traditional fence. You could also use other kinds of fencing that are more aesthetically pleasing; the fence does not need to be electric.

I'm not sure this would work as well as you hope, but don't stop thinking of ideas. So many really good things came from people thinking way outside of the box. Some fail and some become successes. The only way to know for sure is to try it. Can you build a prototype and let us know how it goes?



 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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great discussion of electric nitty-gritty here:

https://permies.com/t/17977/Podcast-Realities-Practical-Permaculture-Dell#1527298

podcast 209
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks Matt.  You make excellent points, and I don't actually have a revolution yet, I wanted to make people start out thinking that it's a fait accompli and then work backwards from there.  Now I can say it isn't yet...but it's still true that it can be.  

The fact is, the reward-based training is much more powerful than aversive, and using some of each may be possible but the fencing part of things has been a huge pain point.  The farmers at the farmers coop didn't give me the honest scoop, they just sold me (actually my partner was there that day and I wasn't, so maybe there was a communication gap) and not once did they say "just forget solar". So, the bar is really low for a revolution in my mind, for a beginning homesteader...anything is better than four pig escapes in one month.

I don't love the high-tech solution, or the plastics involved, but I'd rather the plastic and stuff go toward this idea as a transitional tool than pretty much any other use of those resources.

As for reinforcing return to the same paddock over and over, it is pretty easy to train a new behavior, in my observation, I saw a trainer do it in seconds.  It's how foraging works in nature anyway--animals are already pre-wired to do this: find a food source, reward, devour.  This just takes it a little farther.

As for animals gaming the system, I think that could be tweaked pretty easily.

Breakdowns will happen.  But they happen already.

When the soil is too dry, if you haven't already built soil, the grounding goes out on the grounding rods.  (Any solution that requires a few years to implement is not "transitional" in my book--it needs to work today, and then it can be phased out.  Hedges, a great solution, are not going to grow in the soil that's here now, which is so dry and shallow.  It's a jumpstart situation.  So, something that you can throw money at and get the ball rolling, and uses existing technologies, I think that's going to really help a lot of first-time homesteaders get past the initial electric fencing pain (instead of being broken by it and running backward like hogs in a well-grounded, plug-in fence in wet soil).
 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

... since electric fencing is a commercial product that we tolerate today and that seems to create tons of problems and aggravations, labor and worry.  

 



I'd like to offer my thoughts based on my actual field use of electric fencing for both the net style and single strand poly-wire. In my experience they work great, provide me peace of mind and I've had little problems, and none of those problems have resulted in aggravation.

I've used the net style electric fence for seven years now, and I have had zero losses to my flock of chickens from any ground based walking predator. I use a single strand of poly-wire to make temporary paddocks to rotationally graze my cows, and for two years now so far it works great. If there is any frustration here, it's minor and stems from deer contacting the fence and bringing it down as they panic and run through it, which has sometimes resulted in my cows walking out of their designated paddock. This is easily remedied for me as my cows are bucket trained, so with bucket containing some treat in hand, I simply walk my cows back into their paddock and put the fence back up. The biggest challenge I've had so far has happened this summer with the drought that I've been experiencing. The ground gets so hard when it dries out that I can't push the step-in posts into the soil, but that is remedied by drilling pilot holes into the ground. It adds about 10 minutes to the process of moving the cows.

My chickens and cows are constantly on the move across the farm and I am grateful for the simplicity and effectiveness of portable electric fencing.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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James Freyr wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

... since electric fencing is a commercial product that we tolerate today and that seems to create tons of problems and aggravations, labor and worry.  

 



I'd like to offer my thoughts based on my actual field use of electric fencing for both the net style and single strand poly-wire. In my experience they work great, provide me peace of mind and I've had little problems, and none of those problems have resulted in aggravation.

I've used the net style electric fence for seven years now, and I have had zero losses to my flock of chickens from any ground based walking predator. I use a single strand of poly-wire to make temporary paddocks to rotationally graze my cows, and for two years now so far it works great. If there is any frustration here, it's minor and stems from deer contacting the fence and bringing it down as they panic and run through it, which has sometimes resulted in my cows walking out of their designated paddock. This is easily remedied for me as my cows are bucket trained, so with bucket containing some treat in hand, I simply walk my cows back into their paddock and put the fence back up. The biggest challenge I've had so far has happened this summer with the drought that I've been experiencing. The ground gets so hard when it dries out that I can't push the step-in posts into the soil, but that is remedied by drilling pilot holes into the ground. It adds about 10 minutes to the process of moving the cows.

My chickens and cows are constantly on the move across the farm and I am grateful for the simplicity and effectiveness of portable electric fencing.



Are you using solar/battery or plug-in? do you still get good grounding when it's drought?  how is your soil depth/clay content?
 
James Freyr
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:
Are you using solar/battery or plug-in? do you still get good grounding when it's drought?  how is your soil depth/clay content?



I started with solar for the electric net, and it worked well, but I have since gone to all AC plug in. In my climate, we can get extended periods of cloudy days in the winter time, and when a lead acid battery freezes while having a weak charge, it can kill the cells in the battery. That happened to me, more than once. I reckon though that the occurrence of this may be much less in a region such as Florida for example. Generally, after an animal has experienced a good working electric fence once or a few times, they remember, and it becomes a psychological barrier. They hurt so bad they go out of their way to avoid experiencing it again.

Electrical conductivity is reduced as soil moisture content dips, but I don't know what that threshold is. To me, a damp soil conducts just as well as a saturated one. The "hotness" of my fences is reduced in drought, but I have never measured the conductivity during dry conditions. There are many variables here which include but are not limited to joule output of the fence energizer, soil moisture content, or the number of ground rods and the depth of them as examples. Other variables are the kind of feet an animal has such as paws compared to hooves. Hooves aren't very conductive whereas paws are. Ground cover can make a difference too. For example if a fox puts his or her nose on an electric net and is standing on living grasses, even on dry surface soil, the shock will be more effective than the fox standing on denuded bare soil that is dry, as the electricity will travel down blades of grass, through the roots to deeper soil that has moisture content where the pulse can travel back to the ground rod(s).

My soils clay content varies a little around the farm but is generally low, but I will say it is under 25%, and the majority is silt and the balance is sand. I had a physical soil analysis done on one field that showed the soil to be 15% clay, 50% silt and 35% sand, shown here in another thread: https://permies.com/t/67972/personal-quest-super-soil#844149 I've planted many trees and in digging, I find that it's not far to reach a rather hard subsoil. I'd say 8 to 10 inches, but varies around the farm. Here are a couple pictures of some soil core samples from my farm and it shows 1-2 inches of something darker at the surface followed by a lighter poor condition soil beneath, both above the rather hard subsoil I spoke of earlier: https://permies.com/t/67972/personal-quest-super-soil#947340

 
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