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Grounding an electric fence

The electric fence energizer is only as effective as the grounding system that’s installed with it

When an electric fence is installed right, the shock it delivers is very effective in keeping predators out and livestock in. But, if the fence isn’t properly grounded, the electrical circuit isn’t complete and will be useless. Improving the grounding is a low-cost, effective way to improve the operation of the system.

Kable Thurlow is an extension beef educator at Michigan State University. He says the larger the output charger, the more grounding rods you will need.

"A general rule is install a minimum of 3-feet of ground rod per joule of output capacity," says Thurlow. "So a 15-joule fencer in this case would require a minimum of 45-feet of ground rod. Now that sounds like a lot, but you need to make sure that you have that adequate grounding."

Thurlow says most grounding rods are made of galvanized steel or copper. It’s important that the type of wire you use to connect to the energizer is identical to the grounding rod. So if the grounding rod is galvanized steel, the wire should be too.

The type of soil you have will determine how to set up your grounding rods. The lower and wetter the area is, the better performance you’ll get.

"The sandier or rocky-type soils are not as conductive as loamy soils, so systems that are installed in those type of soils need to be an earth return-type of grounding system," says Thurlow. "An earth return system is one in which alternate wires in the fence are utilized as grounding wires, instead of all the wires being charged. Depending upon the number of wires, you would have alternate wires within that fence system being your grounding wires."

If you have sandy, rocky soil, Thurlow recommends putting the ground rods where the eaves drain off of a building to get the maximum amount of moisture possible.  

Check out these six tips for electric fence grounding

If your fence isn't delivering the shock it should, there could be several reasons

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