With an electric fence system, you ensure that your animals are well protected in the pasture. The animals should not run away and at the same time, they must be protected from outside attackers. The harmless electric shocks that the electric fences cause when animals or people touch them. Nevertheless, they cause respect to fear of repeated touching of the fence. Thus, they not only physically keep animals away from the fence, but also serve as a psychological barrier.

In our guide, we explain what you need to think about when installing electric fencing so that it works perfectly for your circumstances.

How does an electric fence work?

An electric fence represents a circuit system in which electricity flows. The electricity that flows from the electric fence device through the wire, through the animal body, and through the grass growth into the ground is returned to the device via rods in the ground.

Electric pasture fencing has one or more electrical conductors attached to fence posts via what are called insulators. The electrical conductors may be enclosed in plastic cords, ropes, or bands. The associated electric fence device generates short electrical pulses that are harmless to humans and animals. The device has two poles. One pole connects the device to the electric fence wire via clamps or pincers, while the other is linked to one or more rods driven into the ground (ground rods). When the animal touches the fence wire, it briefly closes the circuit between the wire and the earth. The impulse flows through the animal via the earth back to the device.

When you build a pasture fence, the following three factors will ensure that your fence performs optimally and keeps your animals safe:

  • Electric fence device: A powerful electric fence unit provides the foundation for ensuring that your electric fence is adequately powered. The power of the device is expressed in joules.
    When choosing the device, you must consider the vegetation load on the fence and the fence length. You must also consider the type of animal to be protected and the power source (9 V/12 V or 230 V) before connecting the fence. See below for more detailed information about the electric fence.
  • Conductivity: The fence wires of long electric fences must have the best conductivity to work properly. They are usually attached to the fence posts via insulators. For example, for a conceivable fence length of 75mi, 2.5 mm thick steel wires are needed for 4-wire fences. If for the same wire the fence is a single wire, it can only be 18,5mi long to remain functional. If the fence is overgrown, the possible fence length turns out to be even shorter.
  • Grounding: The electricity that enters the ground through the wire, the animal, and over the grass growth is returned to the pasture fence unit through what are called ground rods. Grounding will be discussed in detail later in the text.

Which fence material is suitable for the electric fence?

The conductor material is an especially important component when you connect a pasture fence. It must be durable and stable. The current flows through the conductor material, so it determines whether the effect of the fence is successful or not. You can choose from different conductor materials. The choice of the pasture fence conductor depends, among other things, on the selected fence posts.

You can choose from the following conductor materials when building an electric fence:

  • Pasture fence wire: Unlike the other ladder materials, pure fence wire for pasture is made exclusively of metal and not also of plastic. Conductors made of thick galvanized steel wire are particularly suitable for permanently installed fences, as they are very robust and strong. The steel wire is durable and resistant. However, there are also plastic fence wires, where the metal wire is coated with plastic. They are suitable for mobile electric fences. They’re flexible and lightweight, so you can roll them up easily.
  • Pasture fence strand: Strands are composed of a braid of conductive metal wires (for example, stainless steel and copper) and non-conductive plastic threads. They are suitable for both fixed fencing and mobile pasture fencing. Often, in addition to the number and diameter of conductors and plastic fibers, you can choose from different colors. By combining white and another color, you can easily see the fence.
  • Pasture fence ropes: Like the strand, the rope is made of plastic threads and metal wires that are intertwined. The pasture fence rope is thicker than the strand and thinner than the pasture fence bands. Their diameter is usually between 3 and 8 millimeters. Ropes are easy to handle, so they are very suitable for flexible pasture fences. The willow fence ropes are also available in different colors.
  • Wide bands for the pasture fence: Pasture fence tape is one of the most popular conductor materials. In the pasture fence tape, plastic threads run parallel to the metal conductors, with which they are in turn interwoven with plastic threads. This makes it more stretchable than wire. Because of its width, it is more visible especially for animals and in this way promotes the effect of herding.
  • Pasture fence tensioners and pasture fence connectors: Fence connectors professionally connect strands, wires, ropes, or tapes together. In doing so, the flow of electrical energy is not interrupted. You use fence tensioners when you build the fence system or repair the fence. With its help, the conductor materials remain taut. There are special electric fence connectors and electric fence tensioners for each type of conductor material.

What does the perfect grounding look like?

If you want to connect your electric fence properly, it is essential that you pay attention to proper grounding. As mentioned above, electric fencing works as a circuit system. This means that electricity that flows through the wire, animals, or grass growth into the ground must be brought back into the system. This function is performed by the earth rods or earth stakes. Ground stakes return the current to the electric fence through the ground wire and the circuit is closed again.

If you are connecting a small electric fence and the ground conditions are good, one ground rod is sufficient for a functional electric fence. You should use several ground stakes if you are setting up a long electric fence and installing a particularly strong electric fence. Also, if the ground is dry, sandy, stony, or heavily overgrown, the grounding must be extended accordingly.

The following points should be fulfilled so that there is no power loss due to inadequate grounding:

  • Use at least three ground rods (each 3,3 to 6,6 ft long) for permanently installed mains and battery devices!
  • For portable battery devices, insert at least one ground rod of one-meter length into the dampest possible soil – even more rods in dry conditions!
  • Make sure that all connections are screwed!
  • Use only hot-dip galvanized parts for grounding, because rust isolates!
  • Check the grounding of your electric fence regularly!

What are pasture fence insulators?

The pasture fence insulator is a component made of non-conductive material on the pasture fence. It ensures that the electric conductor of the pasture fence is fixed, held, or guided on the pasture fence posts without any remarkable current flow through the fixing part. Accordingly, insulators are characterized by high mechanical strength and insignificant electrical conductivity.

There are different types of insulators. You need to choose them appropriately for the different fence posts. For example, there is a distinction between insulators with thread for wooden posts or pasture fence insulators for metal posts. There are also insulators with metric thread and insulators for nailing.

Which pasture fence posts are particularly suitable for an electric fence?

Posts for electric fence it is the very first thing you need to choose. They are significantly important to keep your animals safe. That is why you must pay special attention to their selection when building a pasture fence. Basically, we distinguish between mobile fence posts and fixed fences.

Commonly used stakes are the following:

Pasture fence post wood:

Wood fence is probably the oldest pasture fence. Wooden pasture fence posts are used for permanent pasture fences. The stakes are usually dug into the ground by hand or machine. When choosing your pasture fence stakes, look for a high-quality wood. For example, oak is durable and not susceptible to rot or insect infestation. More susceptible wood, such as that from pine, can be refined and impregnated via a boiler pressure process. However, wooden pasture fence posts can only be used as electric fencing if pasture fence insulators for the conductor materials are also installed. Damp wood conducts electricity and the pasture fence loses its function: it is no longer herd-proof. There is a wide range of insulators for wooden posts. You can choose them to match your conductor material.

Pasture fence stake plastic:

Plastic stakes are particularly suitable for mobile use. However, you can also use them for a longer-term or permanent fence installation. Stakes made of plastic have developed enormously in recent years in terms of materials and application possibilities. Especially glass fiber reinforced products are characterized by a strong load capacity and a high elasticity. Additional UV stabilizers also make the piles more durable. The biggest advantage of plastic piles, however, is that the insulators are located directly on the pile. Appropriate brackets and recesses can be used directly because of the insulating properties of the plastic. This saves you time and effort when erecting your new electric fence. With appropriate treads, you can drive the posts into the ground. If the ground is more solid, the stakes with double treads are the best choice, the bars of which serve as a support on the ground at the same time. If the soil conditions are normal, a pasture fence with a single thread is sufficient. In soft soil, the stake with a double tip gives better support. Since there are more tensile forces in the corners, it is best to set fixed fence posts there or reinforce the plastic posts with struts.

Pasture fence post fiberglass:

Fiberglass stakes can be excellent for mobile pasture fences. They are highly weather-resistant and can withstand UV rays, cold and wet conditions with ease. The almost infinitely durable stakes are easy to drive into the ground and have only lightweight, making them ideal for repeated erection and dismantling as part of a mobile fence system. With ground spikes usually over 7,9in deep, they will hold in any terrain. As with plastic posts, it is advisable to place wooden posts in places where there is a change in direction or to support the fiberglass posts with braces.

Pasture fence post-spring steel:

Spring steel has higher strength compared to other types of steel. Pasture fence posts made of spring steel are consistently stable regardless of the temperature. They are suitable for year-round use as they do not break. Spring steel posts are mainly used for herding cattle. Therefore, the typical spring steel pile has only one insulator at the head of the pile, through which you pass the conductor material. Due to the usually low height of the piles of up to 35,5in and the stiffness of the material, you usually do not need to install wooden piles or struts for strain relief when installing an electric fence with spring steel piles.

T-posts for pasture fencing:

T-posts are made of sturdy rail steel, typically used for railroad tracks. Rail steel is one of the most highly durable types of steel. T-posts are therefore best suited if you want to build a strong horse fence. There are studs every 55 mm along the entire length so that insulators for wire, strand, rope, or tape can be fixed at a certain height. A solid footplate provides optimum support. The surface is painted for optimum weather protection. With certain corner sets, which, with the help of additional supporting posts, absorb the greater tension in the corners, you achieve stability, even if the fence changes direction. However, you can also achieve the strength of the fence by driving wooden posts.

What types of fencing are available and what are the differences between them?

Electric fence 110V:

If a power connection is available, you can use an electric fence 110 Volt with mains connection It is comparatively low in the purchase price, the energy costs are low and you benefit from the convenience in operation.

12V electric fence:

You can use a 12-volt electric fence with a battery connection if there is no power outlet nearby. However, you have to expect a high maintenance effort for recharging the battery. In the summer months, you can reduce the effort by using solar panels.

Combination fencers:

Combination electric fence units can be connected to a 12V battery or operated as a mains unit on the 110V mains supply.

Pasture fence 9V battery devices:

You can also use electric fence devices with non-rechargeable 9-volt batteries This is, however, the most expensive alternative. You have to dispose of the empty batteries as hazardous waste and the power output is relatively low. However, the devices are handy and easy to use.

With two power ratings for the electric fence device, you’ll know about its performance:

Pulse energy in joules: Joule is the maximum energy that a device delivers to the fence. The higher this energy, the more powerful the electric shock to the animal and the easier it is to destroy the vegetation.
Devices with low impulse energy (< 0.5 joules): for easily herded animal species and short fences with no or only light growth of grass
Devices with medium impulse energy (1 to 5 joules): for difficult to herd animals and fences with normal grass cover
Devices with high impulse energy (over 5 joules): especially for long fences with heavy grass growth

The voltage at load in volts: According to VDE (Association of Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies), a guard-proof fence must have a minimum voltage of 2,000 volts, even under load.
It is important to have a high voltage curve in areas with heavy loads. Even in extreme situations, there must still be a high deterrent effect on the animal.

Fenced animals usually quickly get used to the electric fence and respect its boundary line. Animals that are to be fenced out and have not yet had experience with the fence are more difficult to deter. Therefore, animals that are to be fenced out must receive a strong and memorable electric shock when they touch the fence. This way you will effectively scare them away. Therefore, use only high-impact electric fencing devices for defensive fences.

You can also use electric fence devices with non-rechargeable 9-volt batteries This is, however, the most expensive alternative. You have to dispose of the empty batteries as hazardous waste and the power output is relatively low. However, the devices are handy and easy to use.