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Electric Fence Materials Make Difference

Oct 31, 2023Oct 31, 2023

Cows grazing on April 20, 2023 during Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Grazing Infrastructure Field Day at Benuel Blank's farm in Delta, Pa.

DELTA, Pa. — The longevity of an electric fence depends on the quality of the wires and posts.

On his farm where he grazes Scottish Highland cattle and sheep, Eli Mack uses triple-strand fences. His sheep were escaping, so he had to increase to the three-strand system.

"We have that trade-off with livestock where the size, usually as they increase, they get easier to manipulate and move with less and less fencing, but you require more infrastructure for getting them in a chute, vet checks, pregnancy stuff, anything like that," Mack said during an April 20 Pasa Sustainable Agriculture field day.

Eli Mack on April 20, 2023 at Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Grazing Infrastructure Field Day at Benuel Blank's farm in Delta, Pa. telling participants about a Kencove tool that can be used to string up to three electric twine fences at once.

Mack is a pasture-based farmer and Kencove Farm Fence Supplies employee. Benuel Blank hosted the field day and showed parts of his grazing system.

Participants of the April 20, 2023 Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Grazing Infrastructure Field Day at Benuel Blank's farm in Delta, Pa. watch as Blank maps out his farm's pastures.

Mack uses braided twine that has mixed metals. He said it lasts longer and is more resilient to wear and tear.

Braided multi-metal twine used to make electric fences, which was the primary topic of discussion at Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Grazing Infrastructure Field Day on April 20, 2023 at Benuel Blank's farm in Delta, Pa.

Having multiple metals helps offset the mixed polymer nature of electrified twine. Without the additional metal types, the twine wouldn't conduct as well.

"I don't skimp when it comes to the electric twine," Mack said.

He use twines that are white, yellow and blue because cattle can see those colors better than shades of red. In the winter, though, he stays away from white, which is difficult for humans and cows to see in the snow.

Some at the event promoted the use of flexible metal instead of twine, but Mack prefers the flexibility of twine.

For energizers, Mack suggested "dual purpose" and Speedrite brand. The dual purpose machines can be plugged directly into a barn but can also be rigged to work with solar panels.

"What matters is having your energizer appropriately sized to your fence," he said.

The notion that high voltage is needed for an effective shock is misguided, he said. To get a bigger sting, more joules or a better groundbed are key.

One joule is needed for every mile of fence, Mack said, including any rolled twine that is attached to the fence, sucking energy. There should also be three feet of ground rod for every output joule.

Mack prefers plastic or fiberglass poles for fence construction. Metal poles, if they come loose, can get wrapped in the twine and will conduct electricity.

One field day participant said he has found that metal poles hold up better. Mack suggested O’Brien fence posts, which are plastic, saying they hold up better than other plastic poles but will not conduct.

To plan paddocks, time for grass regrowth and return trip distance need to be accounted for. Mack cautioned against linear grazing because getting animals back to the first pasture will be a long trip, requiring cooperative livestock or assistance.

A map of Benuel Blank's farm in Delta, Pa. with paddocks marked off. Blank hosted the April 20, 2023 Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Grazing Infrastructure Field Day.

Mack also shared tools, including spools with guides, adjustable bi- or tri-spool application systems and electric netting that alternates electrified and non-electrified lines. But these are not the only options for running a pasture grazing system.

"The only limiting factor in doing this stuff is your creativity and what you’re willing to put into it," Mack said. "There are a lot of ways to do this with raw materials and supplies that you guys already have around."

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Rebecca Schweitzer is the special sections editor at Lancaster Farming. She can be reached at [email protected]

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