July 12, 2014

How to Install Temporary Electric Fence for Cattle

  • Temporary electric fences are great to use when you want to graze cattle in an area that isn't fenced off by some sort of permanent fence, like steel panels or by a board fence. An electric fence is also an excellent tool to use for rotational grazing within a much larger pasture, creating paddocks that allow a herd of cattle to graze a certain amount of pasture space within a defined period of time.


  • Mark out the area of fencing you will need in the field and/or on a map of your place. Base your calculations and estimates on the topography and area of land you wish to have your cattle grazing on.
  • If you are wishing to install a temporary electric fence in a way where you can practice rotational grazing in a pasture, you will need to put posts in areas where you can both stabilize the fence and provide a point of fence-movement. You can also choose to have one or two fencelines as a more permanent electric fence and one or two corner posts as your baseline for the rest of the more temporary fence.
  • You will need to calculate the amount of wire needed, depending on whether you want to have it as a single-strand or a double or even triple-strand electric fence. Also calculate for the number of posts you will need, remembering that electric posts should be spaced 10 to 12 feet apart.
  • Buy your supplies from a store like valley farm supply who sells electric fence supplies.
  • Choosing the type and power of your electric fence charger is important. Don't get one that is too weak (like those used for horses), or one that doesn't carry the charge a far enough distance. For cattle, the best charger is one that carries the charge for over 18 to 25 miles. It will go up to 60,000 Volts, which is hot enough for any bovine to notice! You can choose to buy a fencer that is battery charged (you will have to replace the car or truck battery every few months or so), or a powerful solar powered fencer. Gallagher is a good electric fencing company that often has good quality materials for your electric fence; spending your money on a good electric fencer will often save on the labour of repairing broken wire!
  • Clear the area of brush, grass, deadfall and trees. This will minimize the risk of shorting out the fence, thus significantly reducing the charge.
  • Install fence posts. You will need to install the more permanent posts first (i.e., treated wood posts) before you decide to put in the step-in temporary posts.
    • Make a corner brace (if necessary, as you may be attaching your electric fence to an existing fence line) by pounding in three posts in a right-angle form: one post with two posts 90 degrees adjacent to that post, pointing in the desired direction that the fence will be going. The posts should be 6 feet apart, or as wide a part as the top post (acting as a brace) will be.
    • Mark the area on the post that needs to be trimmed before adding the brace. With the chain saw, cut a grove into the top of each post, going down then out, making sure each part that is cut out in each faces each other.
    • Put in the top brace by pounding in the top brace with a mallet, working each end until it is down snug in the grooves. Repeat for the other post adjacent to the one just completed
    • With high-tensile or telephone wire, make 5 or 6 diagonal loops from the top of the outside post to the bottom of the main corner post. Take a stout stick (one that is around 3 feet long) and twist the wire until you can't twist anymore (not until the wires break),locking the stick against the side of the post that keeps it from loosening the wire.
    • Pound in the permanent posts spaced 100 feet apart, put in at almost exactly 18 inches deep. It's best to make a mark on the base of each post to get a more uniform set of posts being installed.
      • If you wish to make the fence so that it runs in a straight line, take a roll of baling twine, tie the twine to one corner post and run the twine from that corner all the way down to the other corner that is on the same side.
    • You could ignore the other steps above and get right to putting in the temporary posts. These posts don't require a post pounder, since they have a part at the bottom of the posts that allow you to put your foot on it, and stand on it, using your weight to put in the posts. Make sure they are relatively straight. Space the posts approximately 10 to 12 feet apart.
  • Install the wire. Depending on how many strands you wish to have for your fence, it is usually best to start from the top down. The top wire should be at nose-level with your cows (which is around 32 to 36 inches off the ground). Often the step-in posts that you bought are made so that the wire does run nose-level to a cow, making it less of a hassle to install it. Using an insulator, insert a nail through the part of the insulator that allows the passage of a nail, and pound that to the wood post. If you have installed wood posts, repeat for every post, remembering the number of wires you are planning to install.
    • If you are only using a single-wire fence, then the insulators only need to be installed exactly level with those step in posts, or around 32 to 36 inches off the ground. All three wires (if it's a three-wire fence) should be spaced around 12 inches from each other. A two-wire fence should have both wires spaced around 18 inches apart.
  • Wrap the wire in the hooks the first insulator at least 10 times before stringing the rest along each insulator and hooking them in to each temporary post.Pull the wire so that it is not too taut, but not loose either. Wrap the wire at the terminal insulator on the other side of the line until either enough wire has been wrapped in it, or enough so that you can move down to the bottom insulator and continue with your bottom wires. To attach another strand of electric fence, use a reef (or thief) knot to secure both strands together.
    • Fiberglass posts have the kind of hooks where the wire simply snaps in.
    • Pig-tail posts, however, require a different way of putting in the wire. Pull the wire down so that it is just below the loop, then insert it into the loop. Then position the wire so that it goes over the hook portion of the loop. Repeat for all other pig-tail posts.
    • A gate is useful, especially if you have large machinery to put through to mow or hay a paddock. Allow 20 feet of length between the corner post to the next post. Install eye-screws into the post at their predetermined height mentioned above. Attach insulated handles to the electric wire, using a double or triple knot to do so, and tying the wire so that it doesn't stick out when a person grabs the handles. The wire should also be tied up enough so that the wire stretches taut (not so that it reaches breaking point though), enough that you can use your strength to hook the handle to the eye-screws.
  • Install the electric fencer and ground rod. The round rod should be pounded in so that 99% of it is in the ground, with only a couple inches poking up, enough to put the ground rod clamp on. The ground rod should be placed no more than 15 feet from the electric charger, with high tensile or telephone wire running from the ground rod to the charger. The ground rod or lead-out wire should not be touching any electric wires.
  • Connect the lead-out wire and electric wires to the fence charger.
    • If the charger requires a car battery, then attach the charger to the battery according to the manufacturer's instructions.
    • If you are using a solar powered fence charger, it may be best to locate the charger in an area of partial shade. This is so that you don't cook the charger too quickly in full sunlight, but it still gets enough of the sun's energy and light to maintain a powerful charge on the fence.
  • Turn on the fencer, and test the voltage of the wire. Test at the following locations: near the fencer, mid-way down the fence line, and at the furthest part of the fence. If the power at each point is the same, then it is working properly. If not, you may have to find the source of the problem, especially if it's shorting out somewhere. Sometimes if a single strand of electric wire is touching something metal like the wire on the barbed wire fence, or even a tree twig, these need to be fixed and/or moved so that it doesn't interfere with the electric current.
  • Gather up your equipment and spare wire, posts, etc.
  • Let the animals out and watch them for a bit, especially if they don't know what an electric fence is. Keep an eye on the animals for an hour or two to see how they react to the fence. When you see one or more animals touch the fence with their noses and jump back with a sudden bawl or snort, and don't see any animals that are testing the fence nor have attempted to get through because of the sudden shock they got from the wire, then you know the fence is doing its job.
  • It's best to check on the wire once every couple days, or however many times you need to switch the animals from one paddock to another.

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