Winter Electric Fence Solutions

Larry has decades of experience helping farmers and ranchers use electric fence to better manage livestock. He’s sharing solutions with the On Pasture Community so we can all be more successful.

The use of Electric Fence in the winter is fast becoming a solution for controlling livestock. Some use it for winter grazing practices, some use it to protect haystacks from both livestock and wildlife. Others use it for a quick fix all through the winter and early spring, not to mention using normal range fences.

These uses come with some situations and obstacles that need to be overcome for the fence to work. The most common issue that needs to be addressed in the north country is frozen soil and snow. Both snow and frozen soil are very poor conductors. When designing and using electric fence in  these conditions an all hot system (all wires are hot) will be very ineffective or just simply may not work because the soil can’t carry current.

An “all hot” system is one where all the wires in the fence are electrified and relies on good conductivity through the soil to carry the charge from the ground rod to the animals’ hooves when the animal closes the circuit by touching the fence.

The simple method to solve these issues is with a hot/ground fence( every wire alternates between hot wire and ground wire). Remember what was said in the article dealing with training, “Electric Fence is not a Miracle. Hot/ground is a simple design that uses a minimum of two conductors (wires). The top wire is always connected to the hot terminal of the energizer and the bottom wire is connected to the ground terminal and ground rods, this then allows the current to flow back to the energizer through a wire that is capable of conducting current unlike frozen/dry soil conditions. Every wire from this point will continue to alternate hot/ground.

Snow is actually an insulator and needs to be treated in the exact same way as frozen or dry, summer soil conditions. Snowbanks that lay on the hot wires will not affect or short out a fence in most situations. When electric fences are used in winter conditions a more powerful energizer is always a good choice. It will depend on each situation and the length of the fence but when snow and frozen soil are big issues I always look at suggesting larger energizers, 3 joules or more. One good thing I have found is that the larger Tru-Test energizers won’t blow modules when installed on shorter fences.

The pictures shown are great examples of why a hot/ground fence is needed. This fence was installed around a haystack to keep the elk out. It is only 24 inches in height with the objective of shocking the elk below the knee.

However, since the snow has been removed around the stack in places and the ground has been frozen the elk would not have been shocked when standing on the frozen dirt or the snow if the design would have been both wires being hot.

Since this fence was designed with two wires (top wire hot and 6″under being the ground wire with the entire fence only 4 feet from the bales) the fence was highly effective at keeping over 400 elk out of the hay.

The elk tracks stop right at the fence!

This fence is still not a “miracle” it does require some monitoring but is a great quick fix solution.

The lesson to take home here is to remember that electric fence does function effectively in all climatic conditions if the correct fence design is used when starting a fence project.

For more information on this and other designs please contact Larry at l_feight@hcam.net.

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