An effective electric fence should have a few central characteristics:
- An electric fence should be viewed as a psychological barrier rather than a physical one (more on that later).
- The fence construction should be suited to the animal it is containing.
- It should be built to last.
But how best to actually BUILD the fence depends on many different factors. In this article we will discuss planning a new electric fence design for horses (or other grazing animals), and how many fence posts you will need to complete the construction.
The Psychological Barrier
As stated earlier, an electric fence is a psychological barrier. After a few light shocks, the animal learns to keep its distance. You should still tighten the band or rope — but not too much. A helpful reference point for the right strain is the handhold of the gate. If its pull-spring is hooked in and tightened about half way, there is an appropriate strain on the conductor material. For electric fence band, it is especially important that the band does not dangle loose between the fence posts because the band is very susceptible to damage in strong winds.
When using rope or litz, the strain is not as important, as long as cattle or horses are retained by it. In the case of fencing for sheep or goats, the tensile stress is crucial because sheep with a lot of wool tend to sneak out through the conductor material.
On the following pictures, you can see how we built our sheep pasture:
So how many posts will you need?
In general, you can have anywhere from 4 to 5 meter (or 13 to 17 feet) between fence posts. In case you have a very flat surface, you could also have a distance of 6 meter (about 20 feet).
However, this is still dependent on other fencing factors:
The type of animal you are containing can play a role in wire usage, and therefore how often you will need to insert a post. A good rule of thumb for larger grazing animals (horses, cattle) is to keep the wire around 75-85 cm (or 30-34 inches) off the ground; for sheep and goats much less, of course. This ensures contact with the animal but also leaves some room for vegetation growth and safety of younger animals.
A few personal tips:
- I always recommend building the corner posts as stable as possible. This way, you can use lighter line posts. However, in areas of uneven land or severe weather you may need more stable line posts. I used 7x7x180 cm acacia posts, as our land is quite uneven and we often have severe winters.
- As a second tip, I would advise you to always connect the end of a rope with a gate handhold. This gives you the advantage of being able to determine the tensile stress of the conductor material with the help of the tension spring of the handhold. You can also easily re-tension the conductor material with a few handles.
- As a third and last tip, I recommend that you start with a Litzclip® rope or stranded connector. You can cut the Litzclip® on one side with the side cutter, then you simply hang it. No fear! It still holds! This way, approx. 200 meter (330 feet) of fence length per stretch can be realized well. Once, we had cattle run through the fence from the outside. Consequently, the plastic of the corner insulators were demolished but the Litzclip connectors were undamaged!
Permanent or Mobile Fence Installation
I would always build a permanent fence if possible and use the mobile fence only to cut off sections. If you were to decide for a flying fence, it would make sense to at least make the corners stable. The remaining part can then be built similarly as described in the tip above.
The shape and design of your containment area will also affect the number of posts needed. For instance, a square or rectangle area will need fewer posts than one with multiple corners of the same size. Likewise, the planned use of the area will have a direct impact on posts necessary. Will you need to section off certain areas for feeding or water access? Are there areas of the containment that will only be used in certain seasons? These factors will change the design and therefore the number of fence posts necessary to complete your construction.
Still not sure where to start? This online fence configurator is a great first step.
The topography of your land must also be considered. A fence line being built up a steep gradient will require more posts to keep the wire at a consistent height than one built across a flat plain. How many more depends entirely on the gradient.
The last thing you want is to spend all this time, energy and money only to have to keep repairing or replacing broken posts. Here are a few tips to ensure your fence lasts through the years.
- Use treated or rot resistant woods. Eucalyptus is a great choice for its natural rot resistant qualities and is grown in abundance, making it affordable and in no immediate foresting danger. As described above, I prefer acacia wood. But there is an immense number of different posts … one is spoiled for choice …
- Use the correct accessories to get the most out of your fence. Quality insulators, conductor material, etc. will help keep your fence in working order which will lead to longer lasting fences! A well planned, quality fence can last up to 30 years or more. Make sure your posts can do the same.
- In order to keep your fence in functioning order, take care of repairs quickly and efficiently. The Litzclip® system is perfect for these situations.
Remember, the goal is to create a long lasting, effective containment system for your animals. Plan well and choose quality equipment before beginning construction and you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor for years to come.