If you are planning to keep cattle, you will need to erect some form of fencing to contain them safely in their pasture. While most types of fencing are suitable for cattle, electric cattle fencing is the simplest, quickest, and most economical type of fencing to install. An electric fence for cattle is also very practical as a portable temporary fence, which can be used for rotational strip grazing, to prevent overgrazing in certain areas. You can install an electric fence for cattle very quickly by following the 10 simple steps below.
Recommended Fence Heights
When erecting a temporary electric fence for cattle for the purpose of strip grazing, a single wire fence set at a height of 3ft above the ground is commonly used. A two strand fence may be adequate to contain cows with calves, but it is recommended that the wire strands are positioned at nose height of each. While a three-strand fence will contain most cattle, it is recommended that the wire strands be set at knee height, lower chest height, and upper chest height. For less docile cattle, such as beef cattle, a four strand fence may be more appropriate, but for more feisty bulls, a five or six strand fence may be better still.
- Fence posts (Wooden posts or metal T-posts for permanent fence; plastic tread-in posts for a temporary fence)
- Insulators suitable for the posts you choose (plastic tread-in posts often have these built in)
- Electric conductor wire or tape (high tensile wire is recommended for permanent fencing while polytape or polywire on a wind-up reel is more suited to temporary fences)
- Spring loaded gate-breaker kit
- Energizer (charger) – a portable (solar/battery operated) energizer is required for temporary fencing used for strip grazing.
- Metal clamps or tape connectors
- Grounding rods
- Warning signs
- Fence tester
Step by Step Guide for Installing an Electric Fence for Cattle
1. When installing an electric fence for cattle, proper planning is key. Take the following points into account during the initial planning phase, to determine the quantity of materials needed to construct an electric fence to contain your cattle effectively:
- Determine where you are going to place your electric cattle fencing.
- How many cattle do you need to contain.
- What type of cattle do you need to contain – dairy cows are easier to contain than beef cattle or bulls.
- How large an area do you wish to fence.
- Accessibility to water.
- Is your electric cattle fencing going to be temporary or permanent.
- Mark out the boundaries for your fence using stakes and string. Clear excess vegetation and debris away from the perimeter boundary – if vegetation touches your electrical fence it will short circuit your electric cattle fence and reduce its effectiveness.
- If you are installing a permanent electric cattle fence, install the posts, starting with the corner posts and end posts first. Use 8 inch diameter wooden posts for the corner posts as these need to be sturdy. Run string between the corner posts to get a straight line, then begin installing the inline posts. The inline posts can consist of 3.5 inch diameter wooden posts or metal T-posts. Use a hand held pole digger (auger), or a spade, to dig holes for wooden posts. Metal posts can be installed using a post driver or they can be driven into the ground using a sledgehammer. For temporary portable fencing, plastic tread-ins can be easily installed where needed.
- Attach insulators to the posts at the desired height. The number of wire stands required will depend on the size and strength of the cattle being contained within the fence; whether or not there is a sturdy perimeter fence beyond your electric cattle fencing, to contain your cattle should they break free; and whether it is serving as a temporary fence used for strip grazing. Plastic tread-in posts have clips attached to the post for this purpose.
- Starting at the end post, run the conductor wire along the fence, attaching to the intermediate insulators on the posts at each level, keeping the wire taut. Repeat for the number of strands required.
- Install the spring-loaded gate handles to allow easy access to your pen.
- Next, connect the strands of conductor wire, using high tensile wire, connector wire, or polytape/polywire, attached with a metal clamp or tape connector, to ensure that current passes to each of the conductor wire strands.
- Install warning signs at intervals along your electric cattle fence, particularly if it accessible to the public, or borders a public road or foot path.
- Install the grounding rods – three grounding rods are recommended for dry soils, but moist soils may be able to get by with only one or two – connect each rod to the next with wire, and connect the last one to the earth terminal on the charger.
- Finally, connect the live terminal of the charger to the conductor wire of your electric cattle fence. Switch the energizer on, and test your electric cattle fence using a fence tester.
If everything is working fine, pat yourself on the back, and go and pour yourself an ice cold beer to celebrate a job well done. If not, check the grounding system, as this is the most common cause of problems when installing an electric fence for cattle.
Featured Image by Philip Halling [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons