CARROLLTON, Ohio — Jefferson County farmer Clint Finney watched his corn yields drop dramatically, tumbling from above 90 bushels per acre to 20 bushels per acre in the course of a couple years.
The crop damage was so extreme, most neighbors had stopped raising corn altogether.
Despite hunters taking dozens and dozens of deer — “one less than will fall off the back of a pickup truck” — from the Finneys’ 100-acre property over a seven-year time period, nothing seemed to control the crop nightmare.
Not willing to give up raising the corn needed to supplement his beef herd, Finney tried another method to control the damage.
Today, he has nothing but praise for the three-dimensional fencing that let him raise 80-bushel corn last year.
Finney researched several fencing setups, including 6- to 8-foot permanent high-tensile fences, or a permanent high-tensile fence that slants from top to bottom.
Both had serious drawbacks for Spring Valley Farm. As a management intensive grazier who needed to maneuver around fences at harvesttime, Finney was concerned about adding the permanent fences, plus their cost in wire and posts.
Then he found a third option, portable three-dimensional fence, and decided to give it a try.
The three-dimensional fence isn’t your typical fence. In fact, it’s actually two fences, one approximately three feet inside the other, that seems to be a good deer solution.
The outer fence is one strand about 2 feet off the ground, and the inner fence is two strands, with the lower being about a foot off the ground, and the upper being about 3 feet from the ground, Finney explained.
“It’s very lethal looking,” Finney said, describing the fence at the 2008 Tri-County Agronomy Day last week. “Sometimes I’m scared to cross it.”
Finney said the fence, built with fiberglass posts and electric polywire he already had on hand at the farm, creates a depth perception problem with deer and makes them less likely to attempt to cross it.
“Deer can’t judge depth, and so by seeing that fence, they think it’s too wide for them to jump, so that keeps them out,” he said.
Finney and his father fenced in one contour field of corn in 2007, and left another field unfenced to test just how well the three-dimensional fence worked.
“We tried to treat them the same, the most we could, to see just what the difference in our deer damage would be,” he said.
The Finneys saw many deer in the unfenced field all summer long, but didn’t notice nearly as many in the fenced field until harvesttime.
The fenced field had significantly less damage than the other, Finney said.
Pencil it out
Finney built 2,750 feet of the fence to protect about 6 acres of corn last crop year. Not including labor, cost was about $588, he said.
“Everything is reusable, so I figure using it for five years. At that, it’s only 4 cents per foot,” he said.
With the jump in corn yield, the fence was easily worth it this year, Finney surmised.
“The deer will probably eventually learn how to get into it, but it worked out good this time.”
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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