Tips for the proper installation of an electric fencing system 

With its convenience and lower price point, electric fence is a popular option to keep livestock contained and to manage grazing. 

While it has the potential to be an easy system, electric fence can also be set up improperly.

The first step in installing an electric fencing system correctly is selecting the right size energizer (or charger) for the operation. University of Arkansas Program Associate-Forages Kenny Simon explained the size of an energizer should be determined by how many feet of wire it will be charging, as opposed to how many acres a producer will be fencing. Producers will also want to look at the output joules on a particular charger while shopping to make sure it will match up with how much wire they are installing; the correct ratio of output joules to miles of wire is 1:3. 

Typically, Simon and fencing experts recommend New Zealand-style, low impedance energizers. This style of charger will extend the life of the wire and reduces the risk of fires from vegetation touching the fence and sparking, as it does not build up heat on the wire. A battery or solar powered energizer is typically not as effective as a 110 energizer, Simon noted, but these can be good options for a temporary installation. 

Once the energizer has been selected, it is critical that it be installed correctly. 

“The number one most common mistake we see is improper grounding of the energizer,” Simon said. Installing the ground rods is often the most labor-intensive step of the system. For every output joule, producers need to put in 3 feet of ground rod. 

“The bigger the charger, the more ground rod you need,” Simon explained. Rods should be installed at least 10 feet apart; this ensures the rods will gather as many soil electrons as possible. A continuous strand of wire of appropriate size is used to connect the rods to the ground terminal of the energizer. 

Another layer of challenge for installing the ground rods, on top of putting in the right amount and spacing them correctly, is that they must be kept damp in order to ground properly. This might mean watering the area, especially during dry conditions, or getting a bit creative with installation locations. Simon noted flower beds or vegetable gardens make great areas for ground rods since they are watered frequently.  

A common electric fencing mistake is utilization of ground wire that is too small when extended from the ground rods to the energizer. This wire should be 12 1/2 gauge and can be either double insulated, coated or high tensile. The actual fence wire is typically either high tensile or polywire. 

Other materials a producer will need for electric fence are posts and insulators. Simon advised purchasing high-quality insulators with good UV protection. T-posts can work well for electric fence and many producers might already have these on hand; self-insulated type posts, however, tend to be more low maintenance and last longer, according to Simon. 

Ideally, an electric fencing system will save a producer time and maintenance – but even the most convenient of systems will inevitably have something go wrong on occasion. Simon advised producers think ahead for these situations and install cutoff switches. This strategy will isolate sections of fence and help producers find the problem more quickly. Producers will also want to invest in a voltage reader – many of these tools have a built-in fault finder, which can help resolve an issue in a prompt fashion, leading to better time management.


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