Monday, March 03, 2008

High Tensile Electric Fence

Well, after my fence post on Saturday it was pointed out in the comments that I had forgotten "high tensile electric fence". I blame it on my "Iowa Farming Bias" (I really don't, but it is a good excuse). Basically what I mean is that as I drive the roads of Iowa and look at fencing I always see the same thing ... woven wire with a couple of barbs on the top. That is pretty much standard fencing in Iowa, so I admit even with all the reading and researching I have done the "Iowa Standby" was the first and only thing that popped into my head. But, after being reminded of the other options out there I dove in and started reading.

One thing I found out right away is that when you Google "high tensile electric fence" or even "how to install high tensile electric fence" you end up with a lot of links to companies selling the product! But, I picked through and did as much reading as I could on sites trying to sell the product and extension agency type of sites giving basic information about high tensile. I would say that there isn't one good source when it comes to this type of fencing, although I think that is true when it comes to beginning farming in general (that is one of the reasons I started the blog).

Here is what I have "learned" ... High tensile seems to be more economical than conventional woven wire or barbed wire fences. It requires a smaller number of posts. You can have it all electrified, partially electrified, or not electrified. High tensile fencing originated in New Zealand. It holds up better than some of the other options, and is easier to install. Those are some of the basic facts that I found in a short afternoon of reading, but I have so many more questions!

Some of the things that I am wondering:

-I have Dexter cattle and expect to have pigs and sheep. How many wires should I think about using? How many should be electrified?

-I have read about those "flex" posts that a few companies are selling. They look pretty nice and are about the same price as t-posts. Should I use those or stick with the old standby?

-Does anyone know of a good book or pamphlet on how to install the fencing?

-I have seen some cost comparisons and read from others that it is less expensive, but what exactly are we talking about? How much per foot realistically?

-How about post spacing? I read that you can do 40 to 50 feet! Is that true?

Of course I'm wondering so much more, but I just thought I would throw those questions out for debate. Other suggestions are welcomed also. I am not set in stone on the high tensile fence, but it does sound very intriguing. If you are interested in some of the sites I used for research check out these links:

"How 2 Articles" at the PowerFlex Website

"High Tensile" section of the Max-Flex Website

"Construction of High Tensile Wire Fences" by the University of Florida Extension

"Why Build High Tensile Fences" from the Ken Cove Website

Like I said three of the four links come from manufacturers, but they were helpful. I think the best links is the top Powerflex site. The links there are pretty good and a couple of them are from outside sources.


Steven said...

Fact - When you combine a thunderstorm, new cows, and horses getting through the gate so that they are in with the new cows.... even welded cattle panels can't keep them in Dexters! Thank God for feed buckets. We caught 2 horses and 2 cows this morning with out having to chase anything! Oh, and white horns almost glow in the dark. lol

I'm really hoping to take pictures when we have our fence installed so that you can see how they did it. We're paying someone to do it so that we can make sure it's done right and then we can do repairs ourselves... after we see our it's supposed to be done. But with the storm and the coming snow, it will be a while before it's dry enough to do our fence. We plan on 5 wire but could possible do 6. The extension agent told us to do 6 or 7 so that we could keep ANYTHING in, but the company building it said they don't want to do anything over 6 and would rather do 5. He actually tried to get us to go for 4. Each additional wire is adding that much more force on your corning posts, so it's hard on them. Also, too many wires will make them more likely to sag and ground out on each other.
The biggest question for me is how close to put that bottom wire to the ground. Too close and the grass will be more likely to ground it (if it's hot), too high and you can't keep in smaller pigs. Also, if it's "just right" the cattle will clean the fence line. We need to find that sweet spot! Luckly our fence guy is also a cattlemen and he's excited to help use get all the supplies for rotational, water, dividing fence etc. He says "That's really the new big thing!"

I'm not certain what our small posts will be. But I've seen some fences that were t-posts with a white PVC sleeve that slides over them. The sleeve has places built in for the wire to be supported and is insulated from top to bottom. Others are solid plastic, anywhere from 3/4" diameter to almost 3" diameter. You're right, it's AMAZING how far apart the wooden posts can be!

Blair H said...

We can go up to 70 feet apart on a single strand as long as the braceposts are strong on either end. One thought is a method they use in NZ to allow the little calves to get the best feed by having the wire high enough to allow them to go under at will and come back.

Steven said...

Blair the guy building our fence said the same thing about the interior fencing. I thought we would want 2 strands of electric on interior stuff and he said the a calf would slip under and then after it got shocked it would take forever to get it back in. So, it's better to keep one wire high enough for the calves to go under at will. The only problem is that you're likely to always have cattle that are just small enough to go under and get shocked on the way out. Once again.... gotta find the sweet spot.

Kramer said...

We use high tensile wire on all of our Managed Intensive Grazing. Currently I have 100 grazable acres or so. I have 10 acres for my pastured pigs and about 90 acres for my cattle.

High tensile fencing is very easy to install. This is coming from someone that has installed over 40,000' in the last 8 months and had never installed it in his life prior. I did it by myself with no outside help. So as far as workability, I highly recommend it.

The main thing to high tensile fencing is having the right tools. But that is the same in any fencing endeavour. I'm sure everyone has their own preferences but for my operation, with daily moves of cows, I think I made the right choice.

I have permanent fencing for my perimeter fencing and I run poly rope on reels for my interior on tread in posts. On my perimeter fencing, I use wood posts for any corners and anywhere I will have a reel attached. I put large eye hooks on the posts so that I can hang the reels on. I don't like hanging them from the high tensile wire. I then do line posts with t-posts spaced about 40' apart. The main thing you have to worry about with t-posts are faulty insulators. Then you have a ground. Currently I have 3 strands on all my perimeter but I only run cattle. If I added goats, I would probably have to add 2-3 more. I put them 16-32-48" intervals. This allows the cows to graze under the bottom wire so that you don't have to weed spray. The tread in posts from O'Brien have 7 hooks on them for the poly rope. Use the poly rope with 9 strands of wire. Remember...a cow is more likely to try and go under a wire vs stepping over a wire. So put the wire a little lower than you normally would.

For my pastured pigs, I run 4 strands. I have all 4 hot with the bottom strand being 6” off the ground and the rest being about 10” apart. So far I have no escapees or casualties so I figure it is doing its job. You can look on the post and see kind of what it looks like.

For the gates, I use poly wire on handles. For my cattle, I use the equine 9 strand rope and for the pigs a standard 9 strand poly.

The last thing is spend good money on your charger. I prefer plug ins vs. solar but strictly for strength purposes. Like I said, there are more ways to skin a cat so somebody else may have had better experiences with other chargers.

I plan on doing a whole fencing post in the next week or so. I will go over tools needed, how to install, and setting up paddocks. Hopefully it will be pretty interesting and helpful to others.

Ethan Book said...

Thanks again everyone for the comments and information. I must admit that I am being strongly swayed towards high tensile electric!

Steven - Nice story about the cows and horses! See those horns have so many practical uses :) Glad you were able to get everyone rounded up though ...

John Collis said...

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when going with an electric fence, is buying an underpowered fence charger. There are a variety of chargers on the market and what will work OK for cows might only tickle a pig.

Anonymous said...

I have found the following articles helpful:

NRCS Conservation Practice
Standard Code 382

Building an electric anti predator fence:


Anonymous said...

I'm in the minority here. We have not liked our high tensile fence and are taking it down next week to replace with good old square wire and a strand of barbed on top and run electric polywire on the interior. There might be a good reason it's what you see all over Iowa. It works, doesn't need a Ph.D to get the installation exactly correct (I do not have a Ph.D obviously) and doesn't go down. Even if the electric on mine does go down for whatever reason, and be honest there's a bunch of reasons, I'll still be able to sleep at night. Since I have a mix of every type of fencing on our place - 5 strand barbed, wood plank, square, poly for rotational/cross fencing - I have been able to compare the plus and minus of each type and high tensile has the most, if not all, the minuses.

Ethan Book said...

anonymous - Thanks for reading the blog and throwing out your two cents. After hearing so many positive reactions to high tensile I would love to hear your negatives. A balanced approach is part of making the right choice!

Steven said...

Yeah, you mentioned that power can be lost, for multiple reasons, but what else don't you like? How many wires do you have? What kind of problems have you had with the workmenship, or was it just hard to put up?

I know you can have solar powered chargers with battery back up (I guess it actually runs off the battery all the time) but can you put a battery backup on a plug in charger? When we get ours put up, we're getting a light that will "alarm" when the fence electric is down for whatever reason.

Gary Duncan said...

Hi Ethan,
Gary with Powerflex Fence here. I am the guy who authors our website and have been watching your blog. So far this month we have received 26 referrals from your link to us, thank you. I applaud your blog and all of the comments - its been interesting reading for me.
Of course, to us - hi-tensile fencing is the best choice. It costs less, lasts 3 to 4 times longer, is 3 to 4 time stronger and is very easy to install. The comment about the fence tools was a good one. The right tool makes the job easier and more enjoyable. It sounds like you have spent some time on our website so I will try not to ramble on here.
There was a comment about cows jumping over an electric fence. Probably that same cow would jump a 5 strand barbed wire fence too, or the voltage on the fence was inadequate.
Regarding the number of strands issue (for perimeter fence) ....I would also advise 6 or seven strands considering the animals you plan to contain. These could be alternating hot and ground wires. Additionally, the Stafix energizers can be hooked up bi-polar, meaning that some of the wires are charged with positive charges and some with negative charges. If an animal does come in contact with two of these wires at the same time they get a full load even if their feet were not touching the ground.
We have seen post spacing of up to 150 feet in places like the Nebraska sandhills or Kansas flinthills. Normally in the midwest 30 to 50 feet is most common.
I really dont see anything wrong with a good woven or barbed wire perimeter, so long as you want to spend the extra money and dont mind the maintenance. But, if you decide to go that way, then the best thing you can do is put one hot wire on the inside. This will keep you animals off of your investment, plus and most importantly, it will give you a hot wire to tap off of for your interior electric cross fences.
Remember that with electric fencing "steel" is the enemy. That is where you create maintenance and potential disasters. Most people that are unhappy with their electric fences have used stell posts.
I have visited with many New Zealanders over the years and most will say that we Americans typically overbuild the fence then underpower it. Very good point. I know that $500 or more for a fence charger sounds expensive, but when you compute it up, it will usually be less than a penny a foot. You will get almost double the power by chosing a 110V plug in unit over a battery unit.
OK, I am rambling here and didnt intend to. Anyway, I have enjoyed your blog and the comments. Good work, keep it up & happy farm'n !

Ethan Book said...

Gary - I'm glad you received some hits from my blog! Also, thanks for the good tips. We are getting very close to putting up fence so I'm sure I will be writing more about fencing later. So, are there any Powerflex dealers in Southern Iowa? I would be interested in checking out some Powerflex fences in person.

Steven said...

Now that all our plumbing is finished, we are getting some fence posts put in for our high tensile fence. We recently had to make some final decisions on how we wanted the wire done and this is what we settled on. 6 Wire With the bottom wire being hot and alternating hot and ground going up. I had wanted the bottom wire to be hot and low to the ground, 7-8" range in case we got a dog, hog, or sheep or goat, but I was worried about having to maintain the grass so low. Also, if it is hot, the cattle probably won't eat down the grass under the fence as well.

We came up with a great solution. We will have a switch at the beginning of the fence that can turn the bottom wire on and off! That way, if the grass is grounding out the fence too much, we can turn it off for a while and either graze it down or turn it back on after I've trimmed it.

Does anyone know how high a single electric wire should be for Dexters? I don't mind if the calves can go under it so I was thinking 30 or 32".

Jeremiah said...

I really think you will enjoy the high tensile fence. I just "found" this type of fence this last year and have gone hog wild with it. We have built a ton of six strand bard wire fences over my life and I will never build one again. The one thing to remember is this is not a physical barrier, it is a mental barrier (at least for cows, I don't know about goats and hogs). I do leave the one wire up at about 32-34 in so the calves can graze ahead. This works well as I have never had a cow get out of a hot one wire fence. Once they are trained they pretty much don't mess with it. I use about a 30-40 foot post spacing but I don't think 50 would be a problem. I would go with the powerflex post. They are great. They look cleaner than the steel post and you never have to worry about an insulator falling off. Plus they pound just as easy as a steel post. I made a metal sleeve to help with the flex while pounding. Next I am going to make an all in one sleve/pounder so there is less to carry. Check the specials on powerflex. You can get some great deals. Also look at the floating brace and hand tying. It save time because you only have to dig one hole. If you put in a good corner deep, you won't need a brace for your one wire fences. I like hand tying because I feel it is quicker and less tools and supplies to carry back and forth. It does take practice. We have built alot of bad fence over the years before we started building fence right. Live and learn.
I also just started experimentng with the portable polywire and step in posts. Much to my wifes dismay I have stripped grazed my whole yard now. I figured if it didn't work it would be easier to get them in close to the house instead of my neighbors yard. I am going to try to strip graze as much as possible this year to get a feel for my capacity level. If done right I think you can run 2 cows per acre. Thanks for the good reading.

JRG said...

I see this was an old post resurrected from a month or more ago. That's good because I think it's important for Ethan to get going on the right foot.

We've installed nothing but electric fence for over 25 years, both hi-tensle and extensive use of polywire and tape. Today I was out doing fence maintenance getting ready for a couple hundred cows to come up from the lower ranch. We've had quite a few elk and deer staying on the pastures a good part of this winter. Here's a breakdown of my maintenance work.

We have 4-strand barb between us and the BLM. I had a 40 ft section flat on the ground with two wires broken and wood posts broke off and steel posts bent over at 45 degrees. This means the elk have traveled this route regularly this winter. I bent the steel posts straight, pulled the staples from the broken wood posts (it was a double H-brace stretch station) and added a couple of steels. I spent about an hour working on that spot. Wht made this spot doubly interesting is it was right where one of our 2-wire hi-tensile fecnes intersected the perimeter and there was a 2-strand polyrope gate there. The elk broke down the barbwire to either sdie of that fence but did no damage to the electric fence or rope gates.

I repaired two other broken barb wires at other spots in the fence. I did not get that part of the fence done before dark and have several more breaks and bent or broken posts to deal with. There is about 1 1/4 mile of fence on that section and I covered less than 1/2 mile.

There are about 4 miles of 2-wire hi-tensile on PowerFlex posts. I had to put one post back in the ground and all of that area is ready to receive cattle. That was the only maintenance needed.

There are 2 miles of 2-wire hi-tensile on 1" fiberglass posts. This is the third spring I have had to do maintenance on that fence and pound the fiberglass back in the ground. There were 12 fiberglass posts pulled out of the ground from winter wildlife traffic. I replaced all of those with PowerFlex and am confident I won't have to pound them back in the ground next spring.

Hi-tensile on PowerFlex posts is just about an unbeatable combination.

Our wires are at 20" & 30" with 50 ft post spacing. We view any cow that will cross that fence as a cull. This is the best fence we have found to allow the elk, deer, and antelope to cross the pastures without doing damage to the fence or killing them.

Ethan Book said...

JRG - Thanks for that wonderful first hand report! That is the kind of information I love to hear because it gives me a real world look at what high tensile is like.

I really need to try and see some PowerFlex posts in person.

Anonymous said...

I would recommend a Speedrite Energizer by Tru-Test it is equipped with both a wall outlet and a batter hook-up. If you power goes out, switch to battery.

electric fences for dogs said...

Another good one from your factory, thanks!

viagra online said...

The hight tensile electric fence is a good option to protect the properties or farms. It is really useful.

Matt L. said...

I met a guy who has cattle and goats in the Ozarks - cougars, bears, coyotes, and such. He said that he uses 7 strands on his perimeter fence, with every other hot (and others ground). He uses less to divide paddocks and such which is more species dependent - cattle less, goats more. He said the every other pattern keeps predators from learning they can jump through the upper wires and not get zapped. With the grounds in the middle, they will. He keeps them about 6" for the first few, then 8" apart for the middle few and you can get a little more after that. He has not lost a goat or any cattle to predators in the many years he's been there. Hope this is helpful to someone.

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Electric Fence said...

We use 4-5 wires to keep our pigs safely penned up, but I guess it depends on what breed of pig you intend to keep and whether there are likely to be piglets, they have a habit of jumping through larger gaps.

butterflyx233 said...

Thank you for taking the time to create your blog. yours is the first one I checked out.
My husband and I have just purchased 7 acres. The horse will be the first to be moved and we are looking at options for fencing. we have talked about the High Tensile and making it hot. Our horse will NOT get out of high wire and with 4 acres being fenced we thought that this would be the way to go....
Any and all opinions will be greatly appreciated.

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