Ever thought about why you might need to fence in ponds over the winter? Me neither. Well as it turns out, like it does more often than I’d like, I got to learn the hard way.
The herd of 240 cattle were just moved to a new paddock in the afternoon. The next day, we go out to check on the cows, and there is a dead calf in the pond. Not what you like to see first thing in the morning. Greg didn’t think the pond needed to be fenced off because it was only 25 feet in diameter and only a foot and a half deep. There were holes chopped for ice around the edges of the pond. We checked these twice a day to make sure the cows had water.
The next day we wake up with the sun. We planned on moving these cattle into a new paddock. As you might have guessed, there was ANOTHER dead calf in the pond. Now we had two dead calfs in a pond that was a foot and a half deep. Greg had never lost any animal in a pond, ever. This was an eye opening experience.
There was a blanket of frozen ice about two inches thick over the pond. As it turns out, these curious little calves went out onto the pond, broke through the ice and were unable to get out. This was really unfortunate to see, but ranching, like life, is about learning from mistakes. So please, learn from our mistakes and fence in your ponds during the winter.
Fencing a pond in the winter is easy. If you are familiar with, and using electric fence, you can fence off the pond with two hot strands of polywire. You could also use high-tensile. I never recommend electrifying barbed wire, it simply wasn’t made to be used as an electric fence. If you have livestock that are broken to electric fence, they will cringe when they see two polywires. And, if you keep those wires hot, I can guarantee they won’t go anywhere near that pond.
Your second option is fencing it with barbed or smooth wire, cattle panels or anything else you can think of. However, I like the polywire because it’s portable, easy to set up and take down. By not fencing a pond out permanently you can use it when you want to, say during the spring/summer.
In addition to these options, you can use polywire with step in posts to create limited access to the pond, if you need to water your cattle/sheep/goats/horses etc out of it. To do this, fence most of your pond off. Then you would put a few step in posts right at the edge of the water, and make a straight line across a section of the pond, and continue fencing as normal. This means that a portion of your polywire will be over the water/ice. In this area you can break the ice so your livestock can access the water.
What have been your experiences with ponds in the winter time? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.