When it comes to electric fencing for livestock many mistakes are made at the beginning of the installation process, so to ensure you don’t make basic errors that will compromise your fence you need to ensure all aspects of your new electric fence are carefully planned in advance. It can be really frustrating, time consuming and expensive to rectify mistakes at a later stage. Here, we cover some of the more obvious problems that installers encounter and how to ensure they won’t affect your fence build.
Not all electric fences are suitable for all livestock and it’s always worth investigating what type of electric fencing system is right for the type of animals you wish to manage via it. So it’s well worth checking with a suitable authority or a reputable fencing supplier.
A key issue that is often overlooked is whether your electric fence has been earthed correctly, as if you don’t get the earthing right your electric fence system will not work properly. This is because the shock that the animal receives to warn it away from the fence occurs when an electric circuit is completed with power emitting from the energiser (battery, mains or solar powered), going along the conductor (such as the tape or wires, depending on your chosen system) and then through the animal’s body to the ground, and on through the ground to the earthing system and back to the energiser. Anything such as stray foliage that interferes with this circuit will diminish its efficacy.
A common error is to try and earth via a metal support in a steel barn, but this is a mistake as the electrons will find it difficult to get back to the fence and you can get stray voltage in buildings around the mains unit. For example, as a result, cows in a milking shed could experience an unnerving tingle which could create its own issues.
What you should actually do is install the earth around 10-12m away from a building and match the required earth specification to the size of energiser you are using (follow energiser manufacturer’s instructions or get the advice from a specialist supplier of electric fencing equipment). You might need up to ten or more earthing rods installing 1-2m into the ground depending on the energiser capacity. Each earthing rod will need to be at least 3m apart from the next and they should be positioned away from buildings.
In on-going use, you will also need to regularly check your run of electric fencing to ensure it has not been compromised by earthing occurring via quickly growing grass or overhanging tree branches.
It is a good idea if you are using wire as your conductor to make sure it is high tensile and has a minimum thickness of around 2.5mm. This will be effective at carrying a good charge a longer distance than thinner wires. Remember that if you are planning on containing smaller stock you might need to create a second wire or conductor to stop the stock escaping.
In general, dairy livestock can be managed with a single wire set at around 90cm high but smaller animals and calves might need an additional wire positioned beneath this one. When installing the second, lower wire watch out for the possibility of additional earthing threats from touching undergrowth or long grass.
Obviously, as the energiser unit is what actually provides the charge to the line, you need to ensure you get the right one from the wide range of devices available. You need to consider length of fencing and the power you will require across the line which should not be allowed to drop under 3,000 volts, as below this it will not deliver a sufficiently memorable shock. Often, if possible, it is a good plan to centre the energiser within your electric fence network, so the power radiates out equally from the centre. Energisers aren’t cheap, so before you purchase it’s always a good idea to consider any potential future expansion of your electric fence network and, if possible, buy an energiser with additional scope to match what your future requirement might be.
Some electric fence systems are fitted with handy remote control fault finders, and these allow energisers to be switched off remotely until the fault detected is remedied. If not, a fault finding tool is invaluable. Simple to use, you deploy it to detect any change in voltage or amperage along the fencing line. A lot of fixes are pretty simple, often simply the result or encroaching foilage or broken insulator and these can be easily fixed but you do need to check your electric fence really regularly.