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Overview of electric fencing

First of all, this article is written for the person just looking into electric fencing and not necessarily an attempt to persuade you to switch over entirely to electric fencing. As an ol farm boy myself, I have put up all sorts of fences in my life and see benefit to most of them in different situations and for different types of livestock. Additionally, I hope to point out some facts that illustrate that electric fencing can be incorporated quite easily and satisfactorily into existing traditional fence types.

The Concept.

Exterior Fences or boundary fences is a subject that I would like to discuss at the beginning of this article.  For some reason, those of us who grew up with 5 strand barbed wire fences or woven wire / barbed wire fences have had a hard time conceiving a 5 strand hi-tensile fence for our exterior fences. We just cant seem to think that this would give us the security we want.  Well, this may sound passive for an electric fence salesman to say this, but – I really dont see anything wrong with a good 5 strand 12.5 gauge 4 point barbed wire fence at your perimeters. It will cost more than an electric fence, but if it gives you peace of mind its probably worth it. This will probably have line posts every 10 or 12 feet and if you build it right it will last a fair amount of time. It will require some maintenance and you have to keep this fence tight for it to be effective. If you get some saggy wire – then the cattle are going to lean thru it and nibble on the other side. We see this scenario everywhere we go. If allowed to happen, then your fence will not last very long and be very time consuming to repair properly.

To alleviate this problem it is quite simple to put one hot wire on this 5 strand barbed wire fence. To do this you can use a standoff offset bracket that attaches to your barbed wire with an insulator that is approximately 10 inside of your barbed wire.  You dont need one at every line post. One about every 50 feet or so is adequate. These offset brackets with a 12.5 gauge hi-tensile wire offer you a couple major benefits. (note: dont fall prey to putting up those plastic 5? extended t-post insulators at every post – they just dont last.)

  • It keeps the livestock from leaning on your barbed wire fence, thus extending its life greatly. It also cuts down on the maintenance required to keep it tight.
  • It gives you an electric hot wire that you can now tap off of to install interior cross fences anywhere that you want or need them.

So, in summary of the above – my point is that it is OK to build a traditional exterior fence and add an electric hot wire to make it last longer and give you lots of options on your interior fences.

Additionally, you can build a good 6 or 7 strand exterior hi-tensile electric fence for less money.  This fence would also hold goats or sheep, where the 5 strand barbed wire fence probably would not.


Interior Fences are actually a whole different concept and it is where electric fencing really shines and makes sense. Interior electric fences can be permanent, portable or a combination of both. For cattle, a single strand of 12.5 gauge hi-tensile wire at about 34 off the ground is all that is needed. If you dont want calves going under this, than add a second lower wire at about 18.

If you have installed an electric hot wire (as mentioned above) at all your perimeters, then these cross fences can easily be electrified by simply tapping into that wire at any point.

In a typical situation you can subdivide your paddocks up with permanent electric cross fences. Then these paddocks can be further divided up with portable polywire on reels and tread-in posts.

By setting up your grazing system in this fashion you can be very flexible and manage your grass and forage extremely well. You can give your livestock new and fresh grass as needed. It will also allow you to change along with the season, lack of moisture, etc. Not that there will be no challenges – but you will have flexibility in your thinking and options regarding movement of your animals.

There are many other things that need to be considered in the planning stages and there are other articles in our Archives that will help you on those.  WATER source and distribution – is equally important.

Once you have confidence in your electric fencing you will be amazed at what you can do with a single strand of hot wire – and for under 13 cents per foot. !