#8 How to make sure cattle don't get out of electric fences under dry conditions

Uncategorized Dec 03, 2021



Hello, I am Jim Elizondo from Real Wealth Ranching and today we are going to talk about "How to make sure cattle don’t get out of electric fences under dry conditions".

I hear from many people that electric fences do not work well or are not very effective. This usually means that when conditions are ideal the livestock respect it but when conditions are difficult, they get out and exasperate the farmer.

In my own experience, when I am off the farm, my helper will tell me that the electric fence failed or that the livestock got out and when asked the reason, I only get a blank stare from them and sometimes I believe they are convinced that electric fences are not reliable or do not work, period.

Well, let me tell you, One wire electric fence is very cheap, durable and should be enough if we pay attention to details.

They are so cheap to install and to maintain, to the tune of 3 to 10 times lower cost than barbed wire or wire netting that they make absolute sense to me. And when we consider that other countries use them effectively, it pays to learn how to build them and maintain them effectively. I have been using electric fencing since around 1980 and have learned what it takes for it to be effective.

Around 90% of problems with cattle getting out of electric fences, one wire galvanized 12.5 caliber, is due to lack of a good earth return system.

We need to remember that Volts are necessary to transmit the shock but what delivers the stopping power are the joules and they require a good ground or earth return system.

Then there is the matter of a dry season or sandy/rocky soil that does not transmit the power efficiently.

You see, the current must complete a circuit between the live animal touching the fence and the ground rods so if the soil is dry, sandy or rocky it is more difficult for this to happen correctly.

Now, let’s analyze each component and where it can go wrong so we do not have our cattle get out when under these conditions.

-Minimum joules in the energizer. I much prefer a minimum of 6 joules and a good, recognized brand of a modern energizer. Brands that come to mind are Stafix, Pel, and Gallagher. But there must be others of the same quality. Why not a larger energizer? I will answer that right now

-For maximum shocking power we need to consider the distance from the energizer to the permanent one wire paddock where the cattle are in.

I recommend a grounding station every 300 to 500 acres so that the battery powered energizer can be moved with the main herd and the shock is better to contain the livestock. This means that the energizer with its ground rods is never too far from the herd

-Battery powered or solar recharged batteries?

To be able to move the energizer around on a large property we need it to be portable and battery powered. There are solar panels available that can recharge the battery and here is my experience

I prefer a large deep cycle battery that I can move around with the energizer and recharge it at the shop or in my house. I have found most solar panel rechargers to be a headache in that they are not built as sturdy as needed. In my experience, they fall apart very quickly and create more problems than they are worth. I believe any piece of equipment needs to be dependable, easy to use, easy to transport, and sturdy enough to last a long time.

-We need to build ground stations if the property is very large, if not then one grounding rods station at the main house should be enough to deliver good shocking power in any conditions.

We need to use at least one ground rod, galvanized ½" to 5/8” thick and 2 meters long driven into moist soil per each two joules that the energizer delivers, the ground rods need to be continuously connected to the earth system of the energizer. These ground rods stations should be built every 300-500 acres for best results. They are left there, should be in the middle of the 300-500 acres and are permanent

-Now, this is a very important component of your electric fence, if not done right problems will happen. Ground rods and clamps, they need to be galvanized and the clamps should be such that they can be tightened with a wrench. This means they need to have a bolt and nut and need to be also galvanized. Like the ones they use to link chains with. The connection needs to be very tight as this is where most ground systems fail. Many of my Total grazing students were having problems from using brass weak clamps that could not be tightened enough as they only could be tightened with a screwdriver.

-On the topic of Insulators, I much prefer to use fiberglass posts or pvc posts as they do not require insulators. If you prefer to use metal T posts, a problem waiting to happen, then you must use the very best quality insulators and they need to be changed regularly as the sun will make them brittle and as we know when your galvanized wire touches the metal post it is effectively grounded so cattle get out.

-Moisten the ground rods, it is essential to keep the ground rods moistened as in a wet spot. But sometimes, wet spots dry up! Then it’s up to us to maintain them moist. I suggest using a 5–20-gallon water jug with a drip irrigation hose that will be dispensing the water to each galvanized ground rod to keep them moist all the way down. This helps the ground system so that it delivers a good shock.


Always check your voltage and find and fix any faults, like faulty insulators, metal touching the fence, vegetation, fallen trees pinning the wire to the ground, etc.

Check the voltage every day as livestock do respect it, but after a few days after it is not delivering a good shock, they will find and get out. Better to check than to have to go look for your livestock!

Now, remember I said that joules are what delivers the shock and that the ground return system makes sure it is felt strong?

The way to check it is to lower the wire to the ground to hear the sound it makes when touching grass or moist ground. It should be a strong snap and not feeble. Livestock feel it too and remember, it needs to travel from their body to their hooves, then through the soil, which can be sandy or rocky, and then complete the circuit with the energizer ground rods. So everything should be working properly.

Conclusion, we need a good ground return system for our energizer to deliver enough shock under difficult conditions so that your livestock respects the fence. Electric fences are not a physical barrier but a more physiological one where fear of the shock is what makes livestock respect the fence. Remember to use the key components explained before, fiberglass posts whenever possible, galvanized ground rods thick enough and 2 meters long, one galvanized ground rod per two joules, galvanized clamps that can be tightened very tight with bolt and nut, double galvanized 12.5 wire to attach the ground rods to the energizer earth return system, moisten those ground rods when in use, always keep the energizer close to your herd for maximum shock and always, always check your voltage daily to fix any shorts that may happen. If you do all of this, you will enjoy having electric fences and the flexibility they offer to your operation.

Goodbye, make sure you subscribe to the podcast in Spotify, iTunes or YouTube, you can also join us on the weekly email at www.rwranching.com/join


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