The Value of Portable Electric Fences on the Farm

Temporary electric fences are easy on the animals, easy on the land and easy on you.


| November/December 2010



SmartFence System by Gallagher

The all-in-one portable SmartFence system from Gallagher allows you to create 4-stranded cross fences and enclosures in a snap.

courtesy Gallagher

Electric fencing has come a long way since Mark Twain described the concept in his 1889 book, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. And though Twain’s use of the technology didn’t have anything to do with managing animals (of the four-legged variety), one wonders whether early electric fence inventors were influenced by the Connecticut Yankee’s shocking ingenuity.  

Electric fences made their first mainstream appearances in the United States and New Zealand in the 1930s – those applications were almost exclusively agricultural. Today, electric fence technology includes portable electronic solutions for managing domestic animals and wildlife that are economical, effective and easy to move around. 

Memorable experiences 

Portable electric fencing doesn’t offer much in the way of a physical barrier for keeping animals in or out, but it does become an effective psychological barrier once animals learn the shocking consequences of an encounter with a conductor. As a psychological barrier, one wouldn’t want to use portable electric fencing to secure the farm’s perimeter (except in emergencies), but with trained livestock (and wildlife), portable electric fences will give you the most flexibility for managing animal activity on the inside. Training your animals can be as easy as cross-fencing their current paddock with a portable electric fence for a sufficient length of time that they learn to avoid it altogether and never break through. 

Electrons flow 

To be effective, portable electric fences must deliver a powerful shock every time an animal comes into contact with a conductor, or close enough that a high-voltage arc forms between the animal and the conductor (think touching a metal doorknob in winter). That shock relies on an energizer, which sends a pulse of high-voltage electrons into the fence’s conductor(s) and a functioning grounding system, facilitating the electron pulse’s movement into and through the animal. When the fence system is set up properly, the animal is always grounded, and when the critter gets too close to a conductor, the shock will be memorable but harmless. If the ground is faulty, the animal may get tickled or avoid getting shocked at all – much like the instance where a farmer with heavy, dry, rubber boots on his feet avoids receiving a painful shock when encountering an electric fence. 

To keep the electrons in the conductor from routinely finding their way to the ground, you need to suspend them with the help of easy-to-install posts – many of these are easily pushed into the ground or have a step integrated into the design so you can use your body weight to set the post. Others are designed to use special lightweight post drivers or hammers for setting. Posts for portable electric fencing are usually constructed of insulating polymers, fiberglass or steel. Steel posts are conducting, so they need to be coated with an insulating material, or you need to install insulators on them to avoid shorting out the fence. You will also want to insulate the conductors from any permanent fences you might include in the overall animal control plan. 

Conducting the orchestra 

Light metal wires make effective portable electric fence conductors, but they are difficult to see, harder to wind onto spools and heavier than many alternatives. Twines twisted from ultraviolet stabilized polymers and fine metallic threads (polywire) are light and easy to spool and un-spool, with the trade-off being that they won’t carry as much shocking potential for the same distance as solid wire. Specialized braided wire/polymer lines and ribbons generally fall between the twisted conductors and solid wires with regard to shock-carrying capacity, and they have the advantage of being resilient to numerous spooling and un-spooling cycles.  

elizabethsagarminaga
1/22/2015 4:58:24 AM

This is a great and very informative post! It came in handy too as we’re looking at all the options for fencing in some animals housing as well as around the property. Thanks for the extensive information! I will definitely be bookmarking this page for future reference. I work with California Fence Company that is the best in fencing business in and around California, which provides best and most efficient services for your fencing needs.






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