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Wednesday, October 19, 2022
When installed correctly and maintained, an electric fence is a solid choice for many situations. We asked Bekaert Fence Pro Van Medley to share advice on everything from powering an electric fence to tips for installation. Consider this article your ‘Electric Fencing 101’ class.
To start, Medley says there are three pros to building an electric fence:
“Once you understand the basic concepts and how an electric fence works, it’s actually fairly simple and doesn’t require any specialized tools to install,” Medley says.
“To put up a permanent high tensile electrified fence, once your posts are set, you can use Gripples to tension the wire up. So you don’t need any special tensioning tools. That’s part of the desire of an electric fence. It’s an easy fence to install.”
An electric fence is a mental barrier, not a physical barrier like barbed wire. It works by delivering a shock to the animal, which trains them to stay away from the fence.
Unlike the electricity that powers your home, the current an electric fence delivers is safe on animals.
“Many people are concerned they are going to hurt their livestock or animals, but that’s not the case,” Medley says. “Electric fences use a high-voltage, low-amperage system. The low impedance sends a pulsing shock that allows the animal to back away without it being a lethal shock.”
There are many reasons to build an electric fence. One reason is when you need something temporary.
“Less materials are needed, so electric fencing is the best choice for a temporary fence,” Medley advises. “If you want to put up a temporary fence to create a paddock to do rotational grazing, you can put up an electric fence and take it down easily. You can actually improve pasture conditions and increase stocking densities by rotational grazing.”
Because electric fencing requires less materials and is easy to install, it’s also great in a pinch. “When you need a quick install, electric is the way to go,” Medley says. “You can get an electric fence up quick until you can come back and build a more permanent-style.”
Another circumstance is if you need a topper wire. “If you’ve got bulls trying to reach over the woven fence, a line of electric fencing will keep him from laying on top of your fence.”
An electric fence is powered by an energizer. There are two types of energizers: AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current).
“AC are your plug-in units. They are going to be the most economical for the power you get,” Medley advises. “DC runs off battery. This option allows you to set up a solar panel to charge your battery if you want.”
When buying an energizer, you need to look at joules. “Look at the output joules. For every joule output, you’re going to get 20 to 40 acres of fence. So if you’re doing 60 acres, you want to have at least a two-joule energizer box.”
You also need to know what type of soil you’re building the fence on.
“To buy an energizer best suited for your fence, you need to know how well your soil holds moisture,” Medley shares. “If you’re in a rocky, sandy area, that will require more joules versus clay soil with more moisture.”
When building an electric fence, you need to know what animal you’re trying to fence in or out. This will impact how many volts you need as well as the design of the fence.
“When an animal walks up and touches the fence, the shock goes through their hooves to the ground and back to the ground rod,” Medley says. “That means different voltage will be required for certain animals. For example, if the animal has a compact hoof, they may not ground well so you have to build your fence differently to control an animal like that.”
Here is a breakdown of voltage requirements for fencing animals in:
· Beef Cattle (3,500 V): Bulls require a higher voltage as they are more aggressive.
· Dairy Cattle (3,000 V): If kept separately, calves and heifers require lower wires and less spacing.
· Horses (2,500 V): Intelligent, learn quick, easy to control. A fence made of politape, wire or rope is less likely to injure if a spooked horse tries to run through it.
· Llamas (6,000 V): Thick coats insulate from electric shocks requiring higher voltage.
· Sheep (6,000 V): Wool insulates from electric shocks requiring higher voltage.
· Goats (6,000 V): Some species have thick insulating coats requiring high voltage. Tend to test fences–space wires low to ground and high enough to prevent jumping.
· Pigs (3,000 V): Start wires close to ground and finish at nose level.
· Pets (750 V): Start wires close to ground.
“If you are fencing wildlife away from a food source, that will require a higher voltage because they will put more pressure on the fence to get to a desired food,” Medley says.
Here are the recommended voltages for excluding wildlife:
· Wild Hogs (6,000 V): Aggressive and persistent. Deter from rooting by starting wires close to ground.
· Wolves and Coyotes (6,000 V): Very thick, insulating fur requires high voltage. Can dig to reach prey so place first wire low to ground.
· Bears (6,000 V): Thick, insulating fur requires high voltage. Bait fences to train avoidance.
· Deer and Elk (6,000 V): Move quickly and often run through unseen fences so make fence highly visible.
· Small Nuisance Animals (2,000 V): Start wires close to ground as most species are small and prone to digging.
As previously said, the ease of building an electric fence is part of the appeal to this fencing. This fence requires minimal installation tools.
For materials, you will need:
● An energizer
● Ground rods
● High tensile smooth or electric wire
There are a variety of electric wire styles to choose from. Bekaert sells everything from high tensile smooth wire to various gauges of electric fence wire.
For proper installation help and step-by-step directions, visit the Bekaert video zone.
Once your electric fence is installed, you should be checking it daily if possible.
“Check to see if wildlife has run through it or an insulator has broke,” Medley says. “There are tools on the market to help with this. You can get a fence alert or indicator lights that notify you when you’re in visual proximity of the fence. Typically, you can set them to flash when voltage drops under a certain point.”
If any repairs need to be made to the fence, remember to power down the electric source first.
Medley and the Bekaert Fence Pros are available to answer questions about electric fences and can recommend the best Bekaert products for your project. Submit questions at fencing.bekaert.com/contact and a member of the Bekaert Fence Pro team will respond within 24 hours.