Keeping the juice following through an electric fence is critical to its ongoing and effective role in controlling cattle. Adele Popp, who farms with her husband John near Erickson, Man. says that all begins with using proper materials and construction techniques.
Popp explained the key elements of an effective electric fence last summer to visitors participating in the 2011 Summer Pasture Tour for Women. While Popp admits the thought of working with electricity initially scared the heck out of me, she says if the system is built properly there is nothing to be concerned about.
Here are seven tips Popp says are key components to an effective electric fence:
A properly grounded wire is the most important part of an electric fence system as it collects the electrons that travel underground. Popp uses two-metre long galvanized steel ground rods and galvanized connectors. Ground rods are most effective driven into permanently moist soil. In dry years the area around the rods may need watering to maintain conductivity. Rods should ideally be spaced evenly about three feet apart, and at the rate of one ground rod per joule of stored energy.
Popp uses a 12-gauge, high-quality, galvanized, rustproof tensile wire for permanent fencing and less expensive aircraft wire for temporary fences. For better visibility, especially around her horses, she has used plastic tapes or twines that have the electrical wire woven into them, but says they are less reliable than bare wire. Overtightening the wire can dislodge the brace posts, so wires should have a little give in them. She uses two strands of very hot wires for exterior fences.
There are a range of solar powered and plug-in electric fence systems of various sizes available. It s important to size the energizer correctly to make sure it has enough power to electrify the length of fence required. On Popp s farm a 36-joule energizer powers 200 miles of fence. Many systems now come with a portable remote fault detector, which can detect weak spots in the fence. A general rule, she says that one joule will power three to five miles of fence.
Solar-powered fencers require a deep-cycle battery, and it s always a good idea to have a second backup battery charged and ready to go. To determine the correct angle for the solar panel, stand a nail in the centre of the panel at noon. If it s at the optimum angle, the nail should have no shadow.
There are many types of insulators, but Popp has found the step-in type particularly useful, especially for temporary fencing.
Popp finds plastic reels crack in cold weather and don t hold up as well as metal reels. A heavy-duty reel design from 7-L Livestock in Langruth, Man. can easily be hung on a wire fence or a wooden board and it has an attachment for using a cordless drill to rewind the wire instead of hand cranking.
If there s no power in the wire, the first thing Popp checks is the battery if it s a solar system. A portable fence tester is essential for finding the fault along the fence line. Some disruptions can be caused by the cattle themselves so placing the equipment on the opposite side of the fence away from the animals will help prevent accident breakage or disturbance. Buying high quality equipment and regularly maintaining fences will save you a lot of work in the long run, says Popp.