A good fence should keep your livestock in; last 25 to 30 years without major rebuilding, repair, or replacement; and be low cost and easy to build. The cost of most fences is half labor and half materials.
For a truly low-cost fence, use only high-quality, long-life materials. The most critical element of an electric fence is maintaining an adequate voltage charge.
This sheet reviews the principles and practices that will help you to build an effective
electric livestock fence. Electric fence is often lower
in cost and easier to build than physical barrier fences. Phys-
ical barrier fences—barb wire, page wire, or board fences—
should be used when (1) the electric fence may be danger- ous to children or (2) animals
can be crowded into fence by other animals or people. The key to building a good electric
fence is to follow the principles outlined in this fact sheet. It does not cover temporary or
movable fencing. There are many temporary options, but the key is to have an effective
perimeter fence that keeps your
animals on your farm or ranch.
Design and Layout
The first step in fence build- ing is deciding where you want the fence and what kinds of livestock
you want to fence in or out. Using an aerial photo from your Farm Service
Agency office, plan your fencing project so that your
permanent perimeter fences
and gates will be in the right
place for years to come.
The next step is to draw a diagram of your fence system
as it will look when completed.
You do not have to be a drafts- man or draw the fence to exact scale. But a diagram will help you
order materials and build the fence. This drawing also helps for future fence projects.
A pencil diagram is easily changed with an eraser. It allows different fence designs to be compared
that will mini- mize materials while getting the gates in the best locations.
Fence design is determined by the species of animal being
fenced, the livestock or wildlife population or pressure, and the “cost” of an escape
Never use less than three wires
for a perimeter fence. If you are not sure about how many wires
to use, choose the design with one more wire. It is a lot easier to build
a fence with one more wire than to try to add an extra wire later.
Materials and Tools
Let’s talk about the fence chargers, or energizers The right charger combined with
quality construction is what makes electric fence effective. An electric fence is a psychological
barrier to animals the same way a sign that says “Danger—Dynamite” is a psychological barrier to
A “Danger—Dynamite” sign is only effective for people for people if they can read, and an
electric fence is only effective for animals if they have been taught the wire will “bite.” To
obtain adequate bite, or voltage, takes the right size of fence charger that is properly ground-
ed. Because so many different kinds and sizes of chargers are available, ask a reputable fence
dealer for advice when you select a charger.
Good grounding is critical, and you will need about three feet of
ground rod per joule. (Joule is like a horsepower rating for chargers.)
To achieve adequate grounding, you may have
to go really deep with your ground rods or use many ground rods.
Poor grounding is one of the most common causes of low
All 12½-gauge, high-tensile wire is similar, but breaking
strength varies from 1,300 to
1,800 pounds. The 1,800-pound wire is somewhat stronger but is
slightly more expensive and stiffer to work with. To give a useful life
of 25 to 40 years, make sure the wire is triple galvanized or zinc coated to prevent rust.
The end or corner posts should
be large, 5 to 7 inches in diameter, treated wood posts at least 8 feet long. The strength of
is needed to prevent breaking, and the larger size resists leaning due to ground
resistance. Since corner posts are the foundation of the fence system, only treated posts that
will last 25 to 40 years should be used. There are other corner options, such as steel and con-
crete, and single, very deeply planted poles. Any option should be unmovable and
last 25 to 40 years.