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Fence Post

May 21, 2008

Remember this is under the farm as desired category – sooo read this with grain of salt.  This is what our electric fencing has evolved to.  Our methods work for us and it has taken us a while to get here.  We work with combination of permanent fences and different styles of electric fences for different species of animals.  One caveat though, you can spend a fortune buying electric fencing supplies.  It isn’t necessary, especially for cattle, or pigs.  We did spring for the poultry netting, and it has outlived its life expectancy, so it was well worth it.  My husband did all the initial work setting up the electric fencing, now I’m doing the day to day stuff with my added refinements.
Our permanent fences are mostly 5 strand barb wire along the highway, 4 strand barb wire for cross fences that don’t receive much pressure, and woven wire with barb wire on top near our barns.  We have electricity in one pasture near the house, but the bulk of our electric fence is charged with a 12 volt marine/RV battery.

The charge in a battery like this should hold for about 4 – 5 weeks.  If not, you have a short somewhere, or maybe you need more ground rods.  We live in a non-brittle environment, so we can get away with one 8′ ground rod.  I’ve seen fencing diagrams with as many as three rods per energizer.
We use different kinds of insulators in several different ways. 

From left to right:
♣  Round post insulator, use with rebar posts.  We use these the most.
♣  Nail- on offset for wooden posts.
♣  Nail- on regular for wooden posts.
♣  Clip- on offset for T-posts.
♣  Clip -on regular for T-posts.
♣  Backside for T-posts.
 

♣  disregard repeat on the left.
♣  insulator with homemade gate loop.
♣  insulator with 2 homemade gate loops.
Hopefully, I can fully explain these pictures.
I have mentioned our fencing escapades in a earlier post.  Suffice it to say, this will help complete the picture.  I think the offset, round and clip on insulators need no further explaining, but maybe the backside insulators might.
 
 This is showing a backside T-post insulator on one side of the fence, used to run power to a remote corner.  On this side, this is a regular clip-on insulator with a gate loop.  This particular post happens to line up with a keyline, so I leave this insulator with gate loop on the post, as I will put in temporary fence several times a year. 
When you are building any kind of fence, always make sure the wire, board or whatever kind of fencing material you’re using is being “pushed” on to the post.  A sure sign of a novice is a board horse fence nailed onto the outside of the posts.  When animals are pushing a fence,  or gets shoved into a fence you want it to hold them, not just give way.  Another way to say this, is put the wire or boards on the animal “side” of the fence.

Another backside insulator used to run power to a corner.  Here, I’m also using it as a place to hook a gate.  I like these shorter insulators as opposed to the longer type, because I want the cows to graze close to the fence.
 

This shows a backside insulator used for running power.  Also, I can slip a rebar post with a gate loop in these permanent fences as an anchor to start a temporary fence.  If I do this, I always put it close to the T-post so I’m not weakening the permanent fence.  If fencing on the other side, I would just use the insulator the same as the previous picture.
 

This is showing one of those corners that we have run a semi-permanent electric wire to.  These are two nail-on insulators with gate loops.  Usually, I use the top one, until the calves are old enough to go exploring.  (equivalent of a 8 – 10 year old human cub)  At that time I start putting the gate down on the lower loop.  This is at a site that will eventually lead to the road.  Very inviting for little brats on a joy ride.
 
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Rolls of wire like these are the backbone of our temporary fencing.  We have long ones for long fences and shorter ones for cross fences.  Usually, we are fencing long strips along our keylines, with short cross fences inside to make paddocks more square.  Square is good for any kind of livestock.  They don’t feel as crowded and can graze the paddock more evenly without being stressed.  Other examples:  our 15′ x 20′ brooder would not feel the same to the chicks as one laid out 10′ x 30′, when my husband first moved to the country and bought property, he purchased land with a 10′ x 60′ mobile home on it.  He lived in that while he built his log home, which measured 20′ x 30′.  Same space – different pattern of usage and comfort.  He did have a basement, and a 1/2 loft bringing to more actual storage space, but he used the main floor the most.
At this point you have probably noticed we are using steel wire as opposed to the polywire or wire rope type of electric fencing.  We purchased some of that expensive Intellirope from Premier for a deer fence.  It never really worked well, it needed special insulators and gate handles purchased just to go with that product.  I can say if you are fencing horses, then you probably need something large that they can see, but if you are fencing cattle, or hogs, the less expensive steel or aluminum works very well.  What I don’t like about the rope or tape is, that the charge can be weakened by the filament breaking, and you won’t know how many are broken until you start to have problems.  With the wire, I have one wire to look at, and if it is broken, I can see it.  Anytime, we have had a problem with our fence not being hot enough, it is because my daughter has used our polyrope fencing for her horse, and basically weakened the charge to the rest of the fence.  Her horse doesn’t push the fence because he can see it, and we are none the wiser because that polyrope has so many small wires in it, you would never find the weak spot.  Of course, this always happens during the summer when the garden is in full swing, and very delectable to all who wander in there!
I think people buy the polytape and rope because it is easy for the HUMANS to see, the animals are color blind and don’t need that.  But, if you have it that’s fine, don’t run out and change what you are doing just because of what I have said.  Horses are hard to rotationally graze, and need different kinds of fences than other livestock for a variety of reasons, which I won’t cover. 

This is how most of our cross fences start out.  Put in a second post and turn the insulators away from the pull of the fence, so the wire doesn’t get pulled out of the insulators.

When building fence, I walk 20 paces and pound in a post. Most of the long fences are about 500′ to 600′ long.  Then I’m ready for the wire.  We hook the gate, and walk to the next post spooling out the wire.  I wear gloves and just have two fingers from each hand inserted into the middle of the spool.  The wire will feed out smoothly, when I get to the first post I put a wrap in the wire on the insulator.  This makes a gate that I can thow open or and I don’t have to worry about the rest of the fenceline being slack.  If I don’t make the wrap too tight, it won’t put a kink (which will become a weak point) in your wire.
When I get to the second to last post in the line, I pull the fence hand tight and make another wrap.  This is making a brace of sorts, just like in a permanent fence.  Then I wrap the spool at another set of double posts and lodge the spool on top the fence posts, making sure no wire is touching the rebar posts.

Wrapping the spool at the end of a fence line.
 
Wrapped spool resting on top of two posts.
Sometimes, when I end up at a permanent fence, I put in two rebar posts and end the electric fence near the permanent fence.  It doesn’t have to connect, just be close.  With a wrap in the second to last post, this type of end stays secure, because it is not bearing the pull of that entire long fence line. 
I work the cows with the fence off, so depending where they are moving to next in the rotation I may just unwrap the spool and use that end of the fence for a gate.  The cows know what I’m doing and will wait.  When we started out we thought the fence had to be on, and that if we took down back fences while the cows were there, that they would go back into their previous paddocks.  We learned and so did they.  Now I usually take down the back fence and leapfrog those fencing materials forward to become the front fence.  To make sure my wire will roll onto and off the spool smoothly, I unhook the gate and release the wire from the insulators, and unwrap the spool before winding the wire onto the spool.  This is a sewing trick for thread, if there is no tension on the wire it is less likely to get a kink in it and you won’t be fighting it.  If this isn’t done, your wire will have a big long twist in it, making it want to spring off of your spool.  My husband thinks this is silly, I can always tell which spools he has wound up!  Grumble…  There is nothing worse than driving down the road with wire boinging out all over the place.  We have also tried putting handles on the spools, to make it easier to reel in and out – the handles were just in the way, and weakened the structure of our hard to find, free welding wire spools. 

If your animals are just being trained, or you have an animal who may want to go through the fence while you are building the next paddock, you can hook onto a post like this.  Your fence will be taut and when you are finished you can immediately have power to the new part, by hooking into the gate loop.  I also use these double gate loop insulators as a way to take off some of the load on the fence, or to maybe bring in a new animal, or as a way to have a gate in the fence that isn’t necessarily in a corner.  Sometimes I’m skipping paddocks, that will become hay, so the cows have to graze in these crazy places that aren’t necessarily in the original rotation we started in the springtime. 
It is hard to write directions for something that is habit.  I will probably think of something I forgot while building fence today!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2008 3:36 pm

    We run miles of electric fence with no insulators and a Bayguard 5000 110volt fencer. Both our cattle and the neighbors are trained:) So am I, I don’t just grab any wire and crawl through anymore:(

  2. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    May 21, 2008 8:23 pm

    Linda, I know it IS a psychological barrier – I don’t even want to touch a fence that I know is off! :O

  3. May 22, 2008 7:18 pm

    That was the post that it was on my mind to write one of these days….thanks for lots of good info.

    We do use a lot of polywire for our visual benefit…I’m looking forward to transitioning to steel as the permanent fences go in.

  4. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    May 23, 2008 6:05 am

    Rich, thanks, I did forget to mention that we had a terrible time with that polyrope in the snow. The steel wire will hold a little snow and ice is a problem, but usually we’re not using the temporary fence when it is that cold.

  5. May 23, 2008 11:07 am

    “usually we’re not using the temporary fence when it is that cold.”

    Yeah, except this year. That’s my biggest complaint with the polywire, too, and I got nailed by it this year pretty bad. Pendleton Roundup, Yamhill version.

  6. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    May 23, 2008 8:57 pm

    Rich, it’s a pain for sure in the snow, I’m sure you have noticed how docile they are when they are sneaking out, and how difficult and “scared” they can be of that wire that moments before was not a hindrance.

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