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Practical Advice

Electric Fencing Guide for Cattle


There are several options for fencing cattle. Depending on the breed of cattle, the number of fence wires can vary from one to six.
 

Types of cattle

Dairy Cattle

Dairy cows are among the easiest animals to contain with electric fences because they are relatively docile and are used to daily human contact. Dairy cattle being strip grazed can usually be contained with a single conductor of poly wire or 12mm poly tape, powered by an energiser of around 0.25 Joules or less provided the voltage on the fence is around 2,000 - 3000volts

Beef Cattle

To safely contain most beef cattle, you need an energiser that delivers a minimum of 2,000 - 3,000 volts on the fence line. Voltage levels are impacted by vegetation on the fence line, length of fence and type of wire.

Bulls

If normally kept segregated for breeding purposes, bulls or other aggressive livestock may become highly motivated to escape confinement, especially when nearby cows are in heat. To contain bulls, maintain 3,000 - 4,000 volts on the fence line with an energiser that has a minimum of 1.5 Joules of stored energy. Four to five wires are best. For more aggressive animals, you want the electrified fence to deliver a more intense shock to discourage them from going near the fence again so higher joules would be desirable on long fences.

Size of Cattle

Most cattle are fattened on grass aged between a few months and up to 2 years and are usually reasonably docile so 3 wires would probably suit. The wire spacing depends on the breed / size of the cattle but as a guide, on a permanent / boundary fence, the wires should be spaced at knee height, lower chest and upper chest heights.

Wire Spacing Guide

Electric Fencing Wire Spacing Guide
Tip: A fence enclosing both cows and calves requires an electrified wire at the nose-level height of each.

Type of Fence

Temporary

If it is a temporary subdivision within a permanent boundary, total security may not be an important issue, therefore, poly wire or tape on plastic moveable posts may be best.

Strip Grazing

Strip fencing for dairy cows is normally carried out using a portable energiser, (consider 9v power for ease of daily moving) poly wire or tape and plastic posts or metal pigtail posts. Strip grazing fences are usually adequate with a single conductive wire about 90 – 100cms (3 ft) or so above the ground. The use of reels for rewinding the poly wire makes moving the fence much more efficient.

Permanent

Assuming no secondary barrier such as a hedge or wall, a permanent boundary fence should be constructed of timber posts, high tensile wire and ideally a mains powered energiser.

Trained Cattle

Are the cattle used to electric fencing within a limited grazing area? If not, care should be taken to ensure they are trained to respect the fence by allowing them to touch the conductor and receive a severe shock. All farm and domesticated animals need initial “training” to respect the fence, preferably under supervision, to ensure they learn where the shock comes from so they stay away. A high level of shock must be received initially to create the psychological “fear” imprint to ensure they quickly learn to respect the fence.

Powering Recommendations

As a very general guide, the energiser powering a permanent fence should have a stored energy of not less than 0.5 joules for cattle and typically an additional 0.5 joules per km of fence length when using multi strand 2.5 mm high tensile wire.

All energisers produce approximately the same voltage when not connected to a fence and it is the strength of the shock, measured in joules, which enables very long fences to be constructed.

Where possible, use a mains powered energiser. Running costs are low, rarely more than £20 p.a. even with largest energisers, and no batteries to recharge or go flat.

When moving a temporary fence on a daily basis, consider a 9-volt battery energiser. These are lightweight, and incorporate the non rechargeable battery within the energiser case.

Battery and solar powered energisers are ideal for permanent and semi-permanent remote installations where mains power is not available.
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