The benefits of using electric fence with cattle

Electric fence offers flexibility
calendar icon 21 December 2022
clock icon 5 minute read

Keeping cattle is a way of life for American ranchers. With the cost of fertilizer and feed sky-high, many farms are looking for cost-effective alternatives in the day-to-day ranching expenses to ease the burden of rising costs. That leaves some ranchers considering an electric fence for their cattle.

Why? It’s simple–an electrified fence is highly effective for containing large livestock as well as protecting them from outside predators. When you rely on an electric current to deliver a reinforcing shock, the fence material doesn’t need to be much bigger than a few strands of wire.

Are you still on the fence (so to speak) about using electric? Let’s discuss the benefits of using an electric fence with cattle.

Electric Fence Offers Flexibility

While it’s entirely possible to use electric fencing as a stand-alone fencing solution, it’s more common to use it as a reinforcement mechanism on existing field or board fence lines. For many farmers, electric wire is considered as a temporary fence or a supplemental reinforcement.

Electric fence comes in different varieties:

  1. Smooth Wire (Single Strand Bare Wire)
  2. High Visibility Coated Wires (White or Yellow Polymer Coating)
  3. Wire Mesh Tape (Several Small Strands Woven into High Visibility Tape)

Electric fencing is suitable for nearly any geography, making it a great choice to keep out large cats and bears in mountainous regions, or coyotes and deer in the plains.

Electric Fencing for Cattle Offers an Economical Solution

Electric fencing requires minimal materials. In fact, a smooth wire electric fence is just three to five strands of 14mm to 17mm gauge wire. It’s the electricity that makes these fences effective in corralling animals and keeping them safe from predators.

Even though the maximum shock delivered from a properly designed electric fence is generally low amperage and doesn’t cause a burn or significant injury, it’s still enough for animals of all sizes to simply say–no thank you.

It’s the psychological fear of electricity, rather than the delivered dose, that makes an electric fence work. For most animals, it only takes one time to teach them to steer clear of an electric fence. That’s why farmers might consider training their animals to respect new fence lines. If you run a beef cattle operation where the calves stay with their mothers, you might also see her teach her young about the fence.

The bottom line here is that it takes far less material to contain even large animals like cattle with electric fencing, making it an economical alternative to other fencing options.

Electric Wire is Easy to Install

Electric wire, whether it’s used as a temporary fence or a supplemental reinforcement, is easy to install. The ease of use is definitely a factor, both for labor costs and time spent installing and maintaining the fence line.

Wire fencing relies on just the right amount of tension to create a ‘solid’ fence line. As you can imagine, a sagging wire might not be well respected. In addition to the psychological threat of an electric shock, the animal needs to know that the fence line is there–and not easily avoided.

How to Install Electric Fence:

  1. Clear the fence line of brush and debris.
  2. Measure and mark out fence post placement, including gate posts and corner posts.
  3. Install posts using wood posts or steel t-posts.
  4. Affix insulators to posts, designed to position and hold the wire off of the post to maintain an electric circuit.
  5. Feed the wire through the insulators along the entire fence line.
  6. Tension and secure fence lines at corner posts and gate posts.
  7. Connect the wires so that every second wire is connected to the energizer and the remaining wires are free for grounding.
  8. Attach grounding rods to the available grounding wires.
  9. Connect the wires to the energizer, power it on, and test the fence. Make sure the furthest point from the energizer has a minimum of 3000 volts running through the wires.

Simple, Safe Solution for Livestock

How safe is an electric fence, really? When properly installed, an electric fence can be completely safe and effective for livestock, including cattle. These fences deliver a short zap of electric shock that is powerful enough to be felt but not significant enough to cause injury.

With cattle, most herds will avoid the fence line altogether if they know it’s hot. Different breeds and different herds have different characteristics, but as a generalization, they’re far less prone to exhibiting a flight response which might send a herd through a fence line. Horses, on the other hand, need good visibility and a little extra caution with electric fencing.

Electric Fencing is Relatively Easy to Maintain

In addition to cost, many cattle farmers are utilizing electric fencing because it is incredibly easy to maintain. Consider how easy it is to install. With electric wire fencing, most of your time will be spent finding the fault and fixing the connection so that your circuit is continuous. This can happen when an insulator breaks and the wire touches a post. Even resetting a fence post is relatively easy with electric wire, especially if you’re using steel t-posts which use a t-shaped anchor instead of a deep set to achieve a sturdy post position.

The Effective Solution for Containing Cattle

Electric fencing for cattle is a good way for ranchers to save money on routine operational expenses. It’s a versatile, economical, and effective solution for keeping cattle contained and safe from all kinds of predators. From coyotes to big cats and bears, electric fencing is as much of a deterrent for them to stay out as it is for your livestock to stay in.

While electric fencing is often a money-saving measure, it’s important to note that there are differences in quality–and price from one product to another. It’s a good idea to invest in quality, choosing galvanized materials from a top-rated brand name to build your electric fence.

Dain Rakestraw

Dain Rakestraw is the Director of Marketing and Client Services at Red Brand, a line of premium agricultural fencing products known as the most recognized brand of agricultural fencing in the United States. Since 1889 Red Brand has provided the market with a range of popular products, including field fence, horse fence, barbed wire, welded wire, tools and more.

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