The weather is warm, the cattle are fat and the fences are down. Fortunately my cattle want to stay in their pastures, most of the time. This happens every winter. The farm's electric fences occasionally get squashed by falling branches, insulators pull out of trees or rotting posts and the fence gets covered in snow and shorts out so there is no charge in it. Fencing repair is a constant activity which is hard to do in freezing weather and deep snow.
Cattle don't like change so if they are happy in a field with their friends and have enough hay they usually won't leave, even if a fence is down. I say “usually” because if something startles them or they get running they will charge through a perfectly good electric fence. Two years ago my neighbors set off fire works that exploded directly over my herd. The explosion startled me and it definitely scared the cows. They ran through the closed wire gate, circled around and charged through a fence wire back into the field.
This year we had hardly any snow. The fences held and most of the cattle stayed put until I moved them to a new field. Some apparently did not like this new arrangement and within a day went through the fence and were back in their old pasture. I left these escape artists in their chosen field. If I had moved them back to the new field they would escape again maybe taking others with them this time. Cattle are determined when they want something.
Then there are the “jumpers.” Did you know that cattle are really good at jumping? I've seen a cow standing still, tuck her feet and leap cleanly over a 3 foot fence. We had one cow who jumped every fence on the farm. How did we solve this problem? We put her in our “feed program.” She made a delicious “jumper brisket.”
As long the cattle respect the fences I'm a happy farmer and if they don't, well they might just end up on the table. After all “Good fences make good neighbors,” but only if the cattle agree.
Make your own "Jumper Beef" Corned Beef Brisket for St. Patrick's Day. Try out this recipe