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I Got Burned – My Lesson About Hot Fence

By   /  July 27, 2020  /  10 Comments

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There are two different types of high tensile fences on my place.  The original fence was built to
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About the author

Jason is social worker turned farmer and owner of Diamond Hills Farm, a pasture based cow/ calf operation in Hudson, New York. When he is not grazing, watering, or calving he is the Livestock Educator for the Ulster County Cooperative Extension Office. He gets up early, tries to stay up late, and enjoys looking at his collection of unread book. He is currently hard at work trying to slow the rotation of earth in order to increase the length of the days and is the most happy at that time of year when you can smell the soil but not the cold.


  1. Terron Pickett says:

    I am not any of the above, so maybe that discredits me, but here is an idea on how keeping the ground rods in damp soil would cause a better bite when an animal hits the fence. First of all on a pos/neg fence, if the fence is not connect to the ground wire on the fence, to the ground post on the charger you’re right, theoretically the circuit to be completed back to the ground rods would need to travel all the way through the ground, but that isn’t exactly how I understand it. The key for what your are talking about, “having your ground rods in damp soil” is that for it to work one will need to connect the ground wires in the fence to the ground post on the charger and the negative post is also connected to the ground rod field. (shown in the pos/neg diagram in the article) so in this case the ground wires are directly grounded to the ground rods in the damp soil, and when an animal touches both the positive and negative wires in your fence, wow, look out!! Hope this makes sense. I do live in the west, and that is how I build my fences.
    I would have added this to my other comment if I would have read your introductory article first.

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Terron!
      Yes, you’re right. We’re on the same page, but perhaps I didn’t explain it as well. A regular all positive fence requires the charge to travel through the soil to the ground rod and back to complete the circuit. Perhaps Pos/Neg is the wrong label. Basically, having a positive wire and a negative/ground wire attached to the ground rod means that, as you said, when the animal touches both they instantly complete the circuit and they get a big shock.
      Thanks for writing in and helping clarify this!!

  2. Terron Pickett says:

    I make my bottom wire if it is under 12″ in height a positive, with the option to make it negative with a double throw cutout switch. you may need a few switches if you get tired of burying another wire for just the bottom wire under gates etc. But it has worked for me! I flood irrigate and at times my bottom wire is submerged, or later in the season tall grass is on it. But I need it hot in the spring, just remember to turn it off and sequence your switches.

  3. Martha Knox says:

    Stihl makes a trimmer called a power scythe. It works great to trim under our 6 wire hot/ground fence. I do turn the fence off while I am working under it, and tie the lowest wire (ground) up with a couple of pieces of baling twine. The twine gives me about 6″ of working space, enough to get the cutter head in and not cut the wire. No spinning lines wrapping themselves around anything they come in contact with. The scythe actually looks like a small section of sickle bar on a stick. You can change the angle of the head to the stick; really handy when I need to cut across a ditch to clear the bank on the other side.

  4. Randall Bailey says:

    One caution on using a Pos/Neg fence in a high vegetation environment. Lush green vegetation in contact with both a Pos and Neg wire is a “short” in the fence. These vegetation shorts can have a greater effect on your fence than do vegetation shorts thru the dirt. This is due to the Pos/Neg fence having a more conductive ground system. Often times in a high vegetation/moisture environment utilize large energizers (50 joule or larger) and at least 10, 6′ galvanized ground rods (more may be needed) make sure your energizer lead-out wire is 20 ohms resistance or less. When buying an energizer pay no attention to the distance ratings buy the biggest energizer you can. More joules will do 2 things, push a charge a greater distance but often more importantly it will overcome more vegetation or “shorting on the fence. After installing, servicing and selling electric fence for 25 years I have never had anyone tell me my fence is to hot. More power is always better.

  5. emily macdonald says:

    I almost never see any mention of how time consuming and tedious it is to keep electric fence lines mowed so glad to see it mentioned in your article. I certainly wasn’t aware of how much time I would need to spend mowing under my electronet( for sheep) so that count on it working effectively. This is a huge draw back to electronet, as I see it, or perhaps to any electric fence that can contain and protect sheep. I’m loking forward to the day when my perimeter fence will be woven wire which may look messy when grass grows under it but will still do it’s job.

    • JASON B DETZEL says:

      thanks for your comment!
      Yes it is a pain and I have tried lots of different ways and the way I do it now is…I leave it be! Every year i pick one 200 yard area of fence and clean all the perennial plants off the fence during the winter. Then come summer i let the annuals do their thing. Yes I lose juice, but if the cattle have enough grass and water they will USUALLY stay put…anyway the netting is really tough to deal with so i wish you luck and keep up the good work!

    • Efrem A Hug says:

      My big problem with mowing under fences is I have thick, stalky weeds, and I nearly always have an irrigation pipe there.. that makes the nylon string useless, and it’s far too dangerous to go there with a metal blade.
      I’m looking for a long pole hedge trimmer, I think that would make very quick work of any weeds and would be forgiving if I hit my aluminum pipe

      • jason detzel says:

        I also have pipe that runs under and along my fence line…honestly I use a bladed brush cutter and I’m just really careful around the pipe. I have cut it multiple times but i keep a fence fixing bag with me with all the stuff i need to fix it after i mess it up…BUT i still have to drain the line to relieve the pressure so i have become extra careful under those fences!

    • Haydee Guilliams says:

      If the fence is permanent you can apply ground killer right under the fence. Be very careful with the ground killer, one drop goes a long way. I would spray the least amount you can spray around the perimeter and wait a few days to take effect, normally 3 days. Then you can go back and address missing areas if required.

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