New fences can keep feed safe from deer
A new study in press for the Journal of Animal Science offers a solution to white-tailed deer nuisances for livestock producers.
Scientists at the USDA/ APHIS/ Wildlife Services/ National Wildlife Research Center and University of Minnesota conducted an experiment in northwestern Minnesota that aimed to identify an effective way to decrease deer eating stored feed during winter months.
Typically, permanent woven wire fences, 2.4 to 3.0 meters high, are used to prevent deer from accessing stored feed. Farmers often use fences to deter white-tailed deer. Not only do deer eat livestock feed, they can also carry diseases, such as bovine tuberculosis, which can spread to livestock.
“When deer have access to stored feeds such as hay and silage, they can cause extensive and expensive damage,” said researcher Gregory Phillips of the National Wildlife Research Center.
In the study, researchers examined 1.2 meter tall electric fences made-up of four strands of bipolar tape. The bipolar tape does not require separate ground wires or animal contact with the ground. Twenty-one total “sites” were created and an artificial feed pile was created to attract deer. Ten sites were protected, fenced, and eleven were unprotected treatment groups. Deer activity was monitored by camera every 15 minutes. Scientists found that the bipolar fences had over an 80 percent efficiency deterring deer. Bipolar fences have an advantage over other electric fences because there is no grounding, which is especially difficult to set-up during winter use.
The scientists concluded that even though the bipolar fence’s level of efficiency is high, they feel that in areas where bovine tuberculosis is high, the bipolar fence should be used temporarily until a more effective and permanent strategy can be implemented such as woven fences. The bipolar fence would be used primarily during winter months when putting in permanent methods might not be possible. The scientists also write that the fence could be effective in reducing deer prevalence in gardens, small orchards or seasonal resources.
“The bipolar electric fence is another arrow in the quiver of management alternatives for preventing disease transmission between deer and cattle,” said Phillips.
For future studies, researchers believe that improving fence design, increasing fencing height, or using the bipolar fence in conjunction with other preventative methods such as guard dogs or frightening devices could help prevent deer feeding on stored feed.
This study is titled “A novel bipolar electric fence for excluding white-tailed deer from stored livestock feed” by G.E. Phillips, M.J. Lavelle, J.W. Fischer, J.J. White, S.J. Wells, and K.C. VerCauteren. It can be read in full at journalofanimalscience.org.
Kurt C. VerCauteren
USDA/ APHIS/ Wildlife Services/ National Wildlife Research Center
ASAS Scientific Communications Associate
MadelineMS@asas.org / 217-689-2435