Electric Fencing Advice by Animal

The type of fence system you need for your farm, ranch, or garden depends on many factors. The most important consideration is the type of animal you are trying to contain or exclude.

You will also want to ask yourself questions like:

  • How long will the fence need to last (life expectancy)?
  • Will animals be worked with inside the enclosure?
  • Is keeping predators or nuisance animals out a concern? If so, will the fence also need to keep animals in?
  • Will you be electrifying the fence?
  • What kind of grazing management will be used within the enclosure?

Large aggressive animals, like bulls, require a different type of farm fencing than docile animals such as dairy cows. A fence that is designed to keep out deer that can jump looks quite different from one built to repel smaller pests, like rabbits, or predators, like foxes.

Many options, including both physical and electrical barriers, exist. Physical fencing barriers such as a wood or woven wire fence may work well in situations where containment is the main concern and animals are relatively docile. In cases where livestock may be more challenging to contain or predators are a concern, electric fencing or a combination of physical and electrical barriers may be necessary.

This chapter will help you determine the types of fencing materials which will work best in your scenario and what you will need to install a fence system for the types of animals you want to contain or exclude.

Voltage Minimum Chart

Training Animals to Electric Fences

Electric fencing serves more as a psychological barrier, than a physical barrier. When animals receive their first shock from electric fence their tendency is to move forward causing them to go through the fence. Taking the time to train your animals to electric fencing will help to decrease the amount of time you spend gathering animals and mending fence, and ultimately the effectiveness of your electric fence.

Remember, animals do not usually see the fence until they make contact with it. They also do not initially perceive the new fence as a barrier and once through you may encounter difficulty getting animals to return or respect the fence. Proper training will increase the animal's awareness of the electric fence allowing for a more effective psychological barrier.

The training area should be a small and secure location like a corral or handling area. Keeping the area small will help to decrease the amount of time it takes to train animals. In addition, time needed to gather and return escaped animals, as well as build and mend the training fence, will be reduced.

Use the same fencing materials you will use in larger pastures in the training area. Set up an electric fence barrier within the training area in a way that animals must go around it to get to something (e.g. a water tank, feed bunk, hay feeder).

To increase training effectiveness, make the fence more visible. To do this you can add ribbon or foil to the fence. High contrast materials are preferred, such as white or black twine or netting.

If you would like to increase the psychological effect of the electric fencing, you can try putting peanut butter on flags on the fence or simply just ribbons/flagging by itself. Both will encourage animals to investigate, which generally leads to the animal getting shocked.

When animals are turned into the training area, it is a good idea to keep an eye on them from a distance and let them discover the fence on their own. Animals, especially livestock, are curious and will investigate the fence. As they do, they will receive their first lesson.

Reactions to the first shock will vary between animals and species. Some will back up, others bolt ahead, and some animals may go through the fence. If animals do escape, gather them up and put them back in so they can continue their training. Upon the second investigation, animals will usually be prepared to back up. If animals continue to challenge the fence or simply will not stay contained, it may be time to consider culling that animal.

Generally it will take no more than a day to train animals to electric fence. For larger areas and groups of animals, however, you may want to give the animals an extra day or two to become acclimated.

Taking the extra time and effort to train animals, will ensure more effective containment and reduce fencing problems.

Tip: Sheep are the most difficult class of livestock to contain with electric fencing due to the fact that wool is a great insulator. Therefore, for effective learning, train sheep to electric fence just after shearing.