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Fast Facts – Electric Fence Safety

Electric fences can offer a relatively low cost option to animal control and permit flexibility in the use of temporary or portable fencing material.  However, misapplied, in certain situations they can pose a hazard to livestock and possibly people.  Simple common sense steps and appropriate components can significant reduce the chance of injury.  Below are some pointers:

Electric-Fence-Shock-Warning-Sign-K-9806• Never connect more than one energizer to the same fence.

• When possible use established gates for passage. Climbing over, through, or under live fences puts you at risk – and if you’re working with goats, it teaches them that the fence isn’t so scary and they’re more likely to escape.

• Be especially careful to avoid body contact with live strands at head, neck, or back.

• Keep children, in particular those at the crawling stage, away from electric fences.

• Warn others that the fence is there. Along public roads, rights-of-way, outside property boundaries, farmsteads or other areas where the public is likely to first encounter electric fence

  • place warning signs on fence spaced no further than 200 feet apart.
  • increase visibility of these reaches (e.g., polymer coated, wider strands)
  • install energy limiter at feeds for these reaches

• Never electrify barbed wire.

• Where electrified offset strands are installed, place eight inches (8″) or more from non-electrified portions of fence.

• Do not connect earth (a.k.a., ground) terminal of energizer to or within sixty-five feet (65′) of any other grounding system.

• Install, clearly label, and instruct all staff on cut-out switches at crucial locations to enable quickly shutting off pulses to all or sections of the fence in case of emergency.

• Consider non-electric fence alternatives in tight areas (e.g., barnyards) where livestock have difficulty in backing away from or are likely to be pushed into fence.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  1. Great article on fence safety. However the problem with focusing on safety alone sometimes undermines the job that needs to get done in the first place. Unless the fence is quite small or short in distance I would disagree with the comment about minimal powered energizers being adequate. In order for the fence to work the energizer must be powerful enough to kill vegetation as it grows into contact with the wire. This becomes even more important in wet weather when the dry vegetation becomes wet paths to ground and the fence is no longer hot enough to do it’s job.

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