Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Service Manager
Many people are familiar with the term stray voltage, a decades-old concern that has caused grief to many Ontario farmers over the years. Decades ago it seemed logical to ground the electricity from our buildings into the earth; excess voltage would simply disappear. Today we know differently.
Today because of greater awareness and better testing equipment we realize that there is much more to this issue. Those in the know no longer call it “stray voltage” but refer to it as “uncontrolled current.”
It is electric current that causes problems with livestock. When current is grounded into the earth it needs to move. We all know that electricity will travel through its nearest point of contact. This often is penning or stable equipment in barns.
Over the past few years there has been an Ag-working group revisiting this issue to understand the situation and work towards a resolution. The first step was to study the problem and get a thorough understanding of it by learning the facts. This has been accomplished with new testing by those with experience within the industry and those who have dealt with the issue on their farms.
Second was working with stakeholders and other industries involved to share research and study the problems that show up in livestock herds.
The third step, which is still to be completed, is to work cooperatively towards a solution.
I have been involved with this group over the last few years as part of my work as CFFO staff. I support this effort to bring a resolution and prevent further problems to livestock.
There are proven health and production losses to animals because of the current that enters into facilities and comes into contact with these animals.
These losses include decrease in production, reproductive problems, abortions and general decrease in animal health.
Many farmers will talk about the death of prime animals related to the electrical current issue.
Farm operations have ceased from functioning because the losses have become too great to continue on. This is a sad reality about a situation that should have been resolved years ago.
The working group has been working with various officials and departments from Hydro One, particularly Waterloo North and other experts in this field.
On-farm testing has been completed and results are being compiled. We hope that we can first all acknowledge the real concerns, understand what causes the problems and then resolve them. This will take time and some serious discussion but there is optimism that a resolution will be forthcoming.
Other jurisdictions around the world have also recognized the problem and have taken steps to prevent it. They use a different method of delivering electricity which does not have grounding into the earth, so we know there is a solution.
We need the cooperation of many in order to put an end to uncontrolled ground current in Ontario.