Over the six years I’ve been raising cattle, I have built 33,000 feet of perimeter high-tensile electric fence, all by hand, with minimal equipment and my Dad’s help. I work on leased land, so I need a fence that’s easy to put up and take down. In my lease contracts, I explain that the fence belongs to me. If the landowners do not want to buy the fence (for the replacement cost of the materials), when the lease ends, I remove the fence and take it with me.
I far prefer fiberglass fence posts over wood or metal posts for electric fence. Fiberglass does not require insulators because it’s non-conductive. That means no broken insulators to fix and no shorts due to the wire contacting the post. Fiberglass does not rot or rust over time. Finally, I really like the clean, attractive look of white fiberglass posts. I buy line posts coated and drilled from Kencove.
My preferred posts for perimeter fence are 1”-1.25” solid fiberglass. I have built whole fences with these posts, but they require more effort to hand-drive than a 7/8” post. I feel that the 7/8” posts are too flimsy to use for a whole perimeter. My most recent fence used 7/8” posts with every fourth post a 1.25” one, to add stability. Alternating the smaller posts with the larger ones saves money.
I use 7/8” posts only on straight stretches only. When I want to create a curved fence line, I use 1” or preferably 1.25” solid posts because they won’t bend with the strain. If I have a sharp bend to make in a fence line, I use a big corner post. For added stability, I add a floating brace on the big post, pushing the post against the greatest strain. I would love to use 3” or bigger fiberglass (foam-filled or solid) posts for corners and bends, but I don’t have a local source for them or a way to get them economically shipped to me. Therefore, I use wood for these purposes.
On rented properties I build floating braces instead of H-braces for corners. This saves me anywhere from $10 to $30 per brace because fewer posts are required. My fences are three strands at relatively low tension (just tight enough to hold a polywire reel up and keep wires from sagging). For four or more wires, I recommend H-braces.
The brace “floats” on a cement block dug into the ground.
I hire a fence contractor to drive the upright corner posts, which are 8” by 7’ southern yellow pine. The modest fee he charges to drive the posts is well worth it to me, since I know the anchor points of my fence are driven securely. Calling him on the rare occasions when I need posts driven makes tractor and implement ownership unnecessary.
My dad and I build the floating braces after upright corner posts are installed. After the braces are built, I run one strand of high-tensile wire along where the fence lines will be. I use it as a guide wire for driving the line posts in.
Once all the line posts are in, I run the rest of the high-tensile wires using a spinning jenny ratchet strapped to the back of my ATV. I recommend a professional-quality jenny because it prevents tangles and bent components. If you’re not familiar with those, here’s an example:
Running the wires involves attaching the start of the wire to the brace I’m starting at, then driving off slowly, monitoring the jenny for tangles. I drive around the outside of braces and keep going, until stopping at a gate. At the gate, I cut the wire and attach it to the gate brace.
After running all the wires (leaving them laying on the ground), I walk the entire fence line and cotter-pin the wires to the posts. I carry the cotter pins in a carpenter tool belt. It’s important to make sure the wires don’t get crossed. (If they do, you can uncross them by cutting and untangling them. Put the ends back together with a crimp sleeve or Gripple tensioner or use the knots described in last week’s videos.)
I put the Gripples on after the cotter-pinning is done, halfway between each set of gate ends. I prefer Gripples over ratchet tensioners because unlike ratchets, Gripples don’t arc, don’t rust, fail less frequently and just look cleaner. They reduce the risk of wires catching on one another in the wind. I don’t use springs. The fiberglass posts have enough elasticity to bounce back from deer hits. The cotter pins, when the ends are properly wrapped around the wire, won’t get ripped loose. Don’t tighten any wires until your braces are completed, to avoid the risk of pulling your corner posts over.
Gate construction comes after the fence lines are complete. My gates are three strands of high-tensile with spring hook handles. This type of gate is much less expensive than a metal tube gate, and is also electrified when closed. I connect three loops of wire to the hot fence line for the gate handles to hook to. I do not connect the actual gate wires to power. This makes the gate hot when hooked up, but dead when it is open and laid on the ground.
I dig a shallow trench across the gate between the braces, about a foot deep, and lay insulated fence wire inside gray PVC conduit inside the trench. I connect it to the fence on both sides of the gate. This carries power across the gate. I used to run these wires over the gates on tall pieces of PVC conduit, but landowners complained about the messy look and inability to drive tall equipment through. I don’t rely on gates to carry power across the gate openings. If a gate is left open, half of your fence will then be dead.
The last step is hooking up the charger and installing ground rods. My fence contractor recommended Cyclops chargers to me. They are made in America, come in a huge variety of output joule ratings, and feature built-in lightning protection. This means you don’t need a separate lightning choke and ground field. You just need ground rods for the fence. My charger is a sixteen-joule with four 8-foot ground rods. I drive my ground rods under my fence lines and attach them to the bottom strand of my fence, which is not hot. The top two strands are hot. When the fence lines are clear of brush, my charger keeps about 9 kV on a 19,000-foot perimeter. I prefer to have at least 7 kV on cattle fences.
To remove my perimeter fence, I pull all the cotter pins and roll up the wire using the spinning jenny. The line posts come out easily with a T-post puller. The puller won’t grip the fiberglass posts the way it will a T-post, so I put a hardened drill bit or similar piece of metal through a cotter pin hole. I stick a short piece of chain on each end of the drill bit and loop it over the hook on the post puller. On soft ground, set the base of the puller on a piece of wood to keep it from getting pushed into the ground.
Floating braces are easy to deconstruct by releasing the Gripples. (Gripple makes a release key, but a piece of wire pushed into the release holes works just as well.) I dig up the cinder blocks that the brace posts rest on. Underground conduit across gates can be dug up, or the insulated wire pulled out of it. I cut the wood upright corner posts off at the ground with a chainsaw, and I leave the ground rods. Those two items are my only losses on this type of removable perimeter fence. The rest of the materials can be reused on a new fence.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. What works for you? Do you have some suggestions for me and the On Pasture community?
The Natural Resources Conservation Service can provide technical and financial assistance for setting up grazing systems and installing fencing. Check with your local NRCS office for more information.
Readers asked Meg to share some more pictures of her fence and gate set up. Here you go!
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