Electric fence basics | Living the Country Life

Electric fence basics

If you're having issues keeping your livestock penned in, it might be time to consider electric fencing. Here are some basics to get you started.
  • Do it right

    Electric fencing is only a safe, viable option when it's selected and installed properly. Not only that, but it also needs to be maintained correctly. You'll need a weather-resistant location where you can store your electric fence controller. The proximity of your fence posts will depend on the area you're fencing. Generally speaking, the smaller the area, the closer your posts should be. If you feel uncomfortable doing electrical work yourself, have a professional do it.

    Date Published: July 11, 2012
    Date Updated: October 25, 2012
  • The right fence for your animals

    When selecting your electric fence, it needs to match the animals' capabilities and size. Cows are rather slow moving and don't get too rowdy, so their fence doesn't need to exceed their height. Goats, however, like to jump and climb, so their fence needs to be higher than for most animals. The voltage strength also varies from animal to animal. Smaller animals need less voltage and larger animals need more.

    Keep in mind that you don't need to construct a permanent electric fence; posts, wire, and electric netting are portable, allowing for rotational grazing in paddocks around the acreage.

    Electrified netting at least 20 inches tall works well for keeping poultry in one place and for keeping pesky wildlife out. Netting from 30 to 48 inches in height can deter taller animals. 

    Date Published: July 11, 2012
    Date Updated: October 25, 2012
  • Choosing an energizer

    Choose an energizer that fits your needs. When making a selection, consider factors such as total length of the fence, the animals you're keeping in or out, the soil, the power source, and safety.

    There are two types of electric fence energizers: AC-powered and battery-powered. Battery units can be charged with solar panels. The horsepower of the energizer (a unit of measurement called a joule) determines the strength of the electric current. The more joules an energizer has, the more fence you can add to the system. Typically, 1 joule powers about 3 miles of wire.

    Date Published: July 11, 2012
    Date Updated: October 25, 2012
  • Fire hazard

    Be careful, though, there are some high-impedance energizers that have been taken off the market because of their tendency to start fires. A safer version, the low-impedance energizer, will send a pulse every second, but that pulse will only stay on the wire for a millisecond.

    Watch out for vegetation, too. Small amounts are OK, but larger amounts of grass and weeds can cause unexpected shorts in the fence.

    Plug-in energizer units range in price from about $70 up to several hundred. If you go with a battery-powered energizer with a solar backup, that will start at about $170. 

    Date Published: July 11, 2012
    Date Updated: October 25, 2012
  • Don't be shocked!

    With an electric fence comes safety hazards. Watch out for these dangers.

    Entanglement: Avoid hopping the fence so you don't get entangled. This is especially risky with electrified barbed wire or an electric fence in conjunction with barbed wire.

    Ungrounded fences: Any electric fence that isn't installed properly can produce stray voltage. That voltage can be harmful if you don't have an antenna for the stray electric current. An earth rod is a good option.

    Powerful energizers: Putting a powerful energizer on a system that isn't set up correctly for electric currents can send those stray voltages to your barn or house. Take the time to completely install your unit.

    Date Published: July 11, 2012
    Date Updated: October 25, 2012

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