Electric fences work effectively if built properly

There are many different opinions on the best way to build a basic electric fence.

While electric fences were seen as ineffective for livestock management in the past, Devlon Ford, Agriculture Research Assistant at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, believes success with electric fences is all in how the fence is built.

“Some people in the agricultural industry have, in the past, considered electric fences to be a waste of time and money,” Ford said. “Experience has shown few circumstances in which electric fences will not work when a fence is designed and built properly using the correct equipment.”

Ford said a good electric fence begins with the energizer or charger. Chargers come in several basic models: 110V or 220V, solar powered with battery backup models and small D cell battery-type models for temporary use. Models with 110V or higher are most reliable, he said. The solar panel chargers cost more initially and require more maintenance. However, solar panel chargers may be the only option available to farmers and ranchers where electricity is not available. In those instances, Ford said solar panel chargers work well.

“The charger is the heart of your system,” Ford said. “It should be installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.”

Choosing the type of wire is the next step. The two most common types are polywire and a 12-½ gauge hi-tensile smooth wire. Ford said polywire works well in temporary or seasonal fencing, such as cultivated pastures where tractors may make several passes across the field.

“When installing a new cross fence in a pasture, I recommend using a polywire instead of a steel wire,” Ford said, so “the fence can be rolled up and moved with more ease than with steel wire.”

A hi-tensile fence is used for more permanent fence. It is not easily rolled up and moved, but it makes a strong fence. It will not “give” as much as a polywire will, nor will it deteriorate as quickly. Hi-tensile wire is also a better conductor of electricity and will be a better deterrent to livestock, Ford said.

Regardless of whether polywire or hi-tensile fence is used, Ford said the wire should be 34 to 40 inches off the ground. The line posts should be spaced about 45 feet apart. If sagging is noticed between the posts, additional posts can be added. When a fence crosses a terrace, more posts may be needed to maintain the proper ground clearance.

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