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You can still use an electric fence even if it floods

flooded electric fence
Flooded electric fence

This section of electric fence is know to flood, so it is connected to the main fence with a device known as a flood controller which senses when the fence is shorted out and then automatically cuts off the electricity to this section of the fence while the rest of the fence stays on. When the water recedes, it turns the fence back on, automatically.  It’s a handy device that works well. No, the animals don’t swim to the fence and escape, they stop at the water line.

ViviLnk

Practical Experience sizing the optimum  Electric Fence Charger

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing the amount of joules for an electric fence is a commonly discussed topic. Having all sizes of fence chargers in stock, I am in a unique position to try various sizes to see what is really optimal.

First, the fence: it uses a total of about 6.5 miles of 12.5 gauge wire and about 500 feet of poly wire (copper conductors) currently.  The area enclosed is 20 longer rectangular acres, with a perimeter of about 3800 feet, with a mix of 1, 2, and 3 wire cross fencing.

The reason I mention the shape is because acreage can vary widely in perimeter due to its shape. For example, the perimeter of 40 square acres is 1 mile, but it that 40 acres is only 160 feet wide, the perimeter will be 32 miles! For this reason the total length of wire used is a better guide than acreage.

So the results of my trying various Cyclops AC chargers was this: A 1.5 joule charger, rated for 1.5 miles of 12.5 gauge wire gave me a fence voltage of about 3.0 kv.  This is below the effective range of 4 to 8kv.

The 2.5 joule charger, rated for 2.5 miles of 12.5 gauge wire gave me a voltage of about 4 kv. This could be used, but it is at the bottom of the desired range, which is too low. If I were to get more weed growth, it could fall below the effective kv range.

The 5 joule charger, rated for 5 miles of 12.5 gauge wire gave me 4.5 kv.  This is getting closer, but still in the low effective range. I want a new charger to be in the upper range.

The 8 joule charger gives me 5.7 kv, which is at the low end of the range for this particular unit as noted inside it on the quality control label which is 5.6 to 8.4 kv.   So even this charger is still at the low end of it’s range.

I then tested the 12 joule battery Cyclops charger and I got a reading of 5.7 kv which is within the narrow range for this unit of 5.6 to 5.8, so that tells me that I could use either the 8 joule or the 12 joule charger on this fence, depending upon other factors such as amount of additional weeds expected to contact the fence, soil type, expected rain, and type of animal. So you see that there is sort of a range that the optimal charger falls into.

The optimal voltage for a fence is between 4 to 8 kv. Less than 4 kv may not be enough to go through an animal and reach ground, whereas ov 8 kv is enough to leak past insulators when they are wet of contaminated, thus wasting power on your fence.

 

Do Electric fences stop pigs? Here’s a story:

On Monday I finished installing this 2 wire electric pig fence using Timeless Fence System 5’5″ T post cut in half. The fence is about 800′ long total, powered by an AC Cyclops Hero 1.5 joule charger. With plenty of rain, the ground is wet and the fence is working well.
On Friday, the owner called me to tell me he experienced an “incident.” His property was surrounded by this electric fence, but his son came home late and left the front gate open. That night a feral pig came in the front gate and hit the electric fence in several places but didn’t get out. In the photo you can see an old chain link gate that is behind the new electric fence (on the right). If you look closely, you can see that the chain link is bulging from the pig banging on it trying to get out – the pig was that strong, but the electric fence stopped him. The pig eventually found his way the front gate, the way he got in. I guess that pig won’t be coming back.

Facts about Protecting your Fence Charger from Lightning

If you read the instructions that come with most brands of Electric Fence Chargers, they recommend installing a lightning diverter and lightning choke on your fence to prevent lightning damage to your charger. The problem is, most feed stores don’t sell these items, and people won’t go through the trouble to buy them online. The result is they simply don’t get installed, and after a recent lightning storm I got a call from a customer who wanted to buy a new Cyclops charger because his old one got fried in the lightning storm.

Additionally, I think most people don’t bother installing lightning protection because it’s a bit difficult to install and, they decide to take the chance that it is a remote possibility that lightning will strike THEIR fence. The reality is that lightning doesn’t have to directly  strike your fence because lightning sends very powerful surges of electricity through the ground and because this, lightning can damage your charger even though the actual lightning strike is miles away.

Cyclops spark gap circuit board
This is the spark gap circuit board inside each Cyclops charger

Now  you can see the reason why I choose to install only Cyclops chargers. They have the best built in lightning protection of any fence charger. They have a spark gap to route electrical surges from lightning out to the ground rod. While no lightning protection is 100%, Cyclops chargers will still be working when other brands get fried. The Cyclops 1 year warranty and optional extended warranty covers lightning damage.

 

How one customer increased his fence voltage about 2500 volts

One of my customers had rocky soil and was somewhat disappointed that the voltage on his fence was about 4,500 volts. So I went to help him out and found that the voltage on his ground rod (see the post on ground rods in this blog) was 4,500 volts during the recent dry period we had. But when it started to rain, it went down to 3,500 volts. This is still way too much because it should be 300 volts or less.

So my advice to him was to add another ground rod. So he did, and the result? His fence voltage went from 4,500 up to about 7,000 and the voltage on the ground rod went from 3,500 down to 900.  Because of the rocky soil, he installed this 8′ ground rod by digging a 1 ft. deep trench and laying the ground rod horizontally. He could still add another ground rod, but just adding one ground rod gave him a big improvement. It is interesting to see that the fence voltage went up about the same 2500 volts that the voltage on the ground rod went down. So if you have a high reading on your ground rod, you can see how much your fence voltage may go up if you add more ground rods.

And the reason one ground rod didn’t do the job? Rocky soil. The type of soil has a lot to do with how well a ground rod functions and the only way to test this is to have a fence voltmeter and test your ground rod, or pay me to come out and do it for you.

My weedeater recommendation

My recommendation for the best weedeater to get is the Maruyama B42 brush cutter. The reason is that there are some little know facts about the engine it has that make it my best choice (and I am not getting paid for this endorsement).

Fist, in the picture below of the piston and crankshaft, notice on the skirt of the piston there are cut 2 grooves. These are re-circulation grooves. They connect the exhaust port to the intake port which sucks exhaust gases back into the crankcase to be re-burned. This makes a much cleaner engine that meets California CARB III emission requirements and makes this 2 stroke engine burn as clean as a 4 stroke.  But there’s more benefits.

Because of this recirculating technology, the engine output is increased about 20% more than an engine without it, and fuel consumption is down about 40%. So now you have a 42cc 2 stoke engine that has the power of about a 48cc engine, but has the fuel consumption of about a 30cc engine, and only Maruyama has it.

Maruyama fuel savings
Maruyama fuel savings
Maruyama power output
Maruyama power output
Maruyama emissions reduction
Maruyama emissions reduction

And of course I recommend full synthetic AMSOIL Saber 2 stroke oil mixed at 100:1. Yes, you really can use 100:1 ratio even though the owner’s manual says to use 50:1 because it is the quality of the oil, not the amount of oil that matters. Also, it will not void the warranty because Amsoil meets the Maruyama specs, and Amsoil will cover your equipment if you follow their recommendations with their own warranty.

A tip for weedeating around an electric fence.

insulated weedeater
Weedeater with insulated shaft using PVC pipe

I need to weedeat under my electric fence from time to time and since the weedeater is metal, if it contacts the fence I will get a shock because I leave the fence on because I have animals it contains. Because of the size of the fence I cannot watch animals in all areas of the fence while I weedeat, so I leave the fence on.

So my tip is to take a piece of PVC pipe that fits around the shaft of your weedeater and cut enough of it off, about 1/3 of it, so it snaps right on. You have just insulated the shaft and now you can reach the weedeater further under the fence without getting shocked. Of course I also wear shoes with non-conductive soles to lessen the shock.

Do you have an under-powered fence?

When I first got into electric fencing, I talked to some people who told me that electric fencing didn’t work for them, and so they gave up on it. Upon talking to them more, I usually found out that their fence was under-powered. Here are some examples:

  • One farmer had over 60 acres and had only a .5 joule solar charger
  • One farmer called me for help because his goats were getting through his electric fence. He had only a .06 joule solar charger
  • I tested the fence voltage on two horse ranches and found only about 1,000 volts on the fence

I could go on. I like to stop when I see an electric fence along the road and test the voltage.

But voltage is only one aspect of properly electrifying a fence. The goat farmer above, for example, had 7,000 volts on his fence, but it didn’t have enough joules behind it to make an effective fence.

So how many joules should you have on your fence? Realize that it is desirable to have a minimum of one joule at the end of your fence. To achieve this, my guideline is one joule for each mile of total wire used on a fence  (and this is for 12.5 gauge wire that has a resistance of 56 ohms per mile – there are many other wires such as poly wire that has a much higher resistance which will require more joules).  This means, for example, if you have a 4 wire fence that is 1/4 mile long, the total amount of wire you have is 1 mile, so you would need a minimum of 1 joule.

The reason I emphasize minimum in the above paragraph, is because in some situations you can double that amount if you have a stubborn animal to contain, or predators to keep out. The reason it takes a bigger shock to keep animals out rather than in,  is because these animals are not trained to respect an electric fence. Maybe it’s the first time this wild animal has encountered and electric fence. Because of this, you want to deliver a really good shock the first time so that it is the only time this animal will ever want to contact your fence.

So how do you calculate how many joules to put on your fence? Go to the fence calculator online at Taylor Fence, manufacturers of Cyclops Fence Chargers. Here’s the link: http://www.taylorfence.net/whichCharger.php

My second guideline is this: No one ever complained because they had too much power on their fence, but many people are unhappy because they have too little power.

How many feral pigs are on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Sunday 2/26/17 at the Maku’u farmer’s market I spoke to two customers that gave me an idea of the number of pigs around.

A woman told me that 28 pigs were recently trapped near the Kalani resort in Pahoa.

A farmer in Keaau said he could spend more money on shotgun ammo than he spent on his electric fence and could should pigs all day long and still not get them all. He said there are over 300 pigs in the area around his farm in Keaau.

How I made my own polywire reel for less than $3.

homemade polywire reel
homemade polywire reel

I thought, “Why spend $30 or more on a poly wire reel?” so I made my own. I used an empty trimmer line spool and put a PVC pipe in the center for it to rotate on. At the ends of the spool, to keep the pipe from coming out,  I made a PVC washer that I screwed on.  To make the washer I used a 7/8″ thick PVC board, and drilled a 2″ hole in it with a hole saw on my cordless drill. I popped the core out of the drill bit, and drilled a 7/8″ hole in the middle of that which fit snugly on the 7/8″ outside diameter PVC pipe. I made it just a bit loose so the spool spins freely.

Then I bought an appliance knob and screw for it at the hardware store for under $3. I mounted it on the spool to turn it.

To operate it, I hold it with my right hand and turn the knob with my left hand rotating the spool forward. This is necessary because of the screw threads in the knob. By turning it this way, the screw stays on the knob because it has right hand threads. If I hold it with my left hand and turn it forward with my right, then it unscrews the screw from the knob and it falls out.

A reel is required because if you try to hold just a spool with one arm and wrap the polywire around the spool with the other arm, it will twist and thus kink the polywire and shorten it’s life.

So be creative and come up with your own design. If you don’t have a spool, you can try asking for one at a place where they sell bulk fishing line.

How and why to keep an electric fence away from non-electric fences

I know it is a common practice to put up a hog wire fence and then attach plastic insulators to it and run electric fence wires along it. But I say it’s best not to do this for several reasons.

First, realize that a metal post is really just a ground rod disguised as a fence post. It’s just waiting in close proximity to contact and ground out the hot wires. Insulators break and allow the hot wire to contact the metal fence and posts, using up your time tracking down the short to fix it. Most insulators don’t place the hot wire far enough away from the fence so animals can push the hot wire up onto the fence, sometimes catching it there and shorting it out. There are insulators that hold the hot wire farther away, but their shortcoming is that they use a metal wire to do this so though the insulator is plastic and appears to be held further away from the metal fence, it is actually close to the metal wire.

In my case, my neighbor already had a hog wire and barbed wire fence along the property line, and I didn’t want my cows coming in contact with barbed wire. So my solution was to build a separate electric fence using Timeless Fence System PVC posts placed at an angle. This keeps the hot wires further away from the metal fence. The Timeless posts are more secure than plastic insulators. Because the posts are placed at an angle, animals are still able to graze up to the bottom of the fence minimizing weed contact with the hot wires.

Electric fence in front of hog wire fence

So why do people continue to put insulators and hot wires on metal fences? I think it’s because they don’t trust only an electric fence to contain their animals because they don’t  build an effective electric fence. That’s why I think education is the key in my website. Learning to build an effective electric fence can save you a whole heck of a lot of money.

When I get someone who still wants a hog wire fence because they don’t believe an electric fence will contain their animals, I just ask them to get down on their hands and knees and crawl through the electric fence like a pig would do, and see if they can get though the fence and experience the shock of the fence – I haven’t had any takers so far.

2/14/17  The effectiveness of Electric Fencing

One wire poly wire fence for cows
One wire poly wire fence for cows

These photos show the effectiveness of a properly charged electric fence. It is a one poly wire fence supported by 4′ Timeless Fence PVC T posts every 50 – 60 feet or so. The wire is charged with a Cyclops Brute Charger, which is probably putting out about 4 joules right now. The reason I point out that this is an example of the effectiveness of electric fencing is because this one wire fence is all that is standing between my two cows and their freedom – there is no perimeter fence. It is  just a temporary fence, about 800′ long that took only about an hour to put up.

How accurate is you Electric Fence Voltmeter?

Electric fence voltmeters and fault finders

Did you know that most Electric Fence voltmeters read higher than the actual voltage? It’s true.

I found this out by talking to the people at Taylor Fence, makers of Cyclops fence chargers. They found this out by comparing the reading on electric fence voltmeters to their expensive electric test equipment used in manufacturing their fence chargers.

Inside every Cyclops charger is a factory label that states the actual output voltage of the unit both loaded and unloaded. So what I did was open one up, read the label, and in this case it said 8,300 volts unloaded. Then I hooked it up to my fence and measured the voltage, and it read 9,200. So I know that this particular meter reads about 900 volts higher than actual.

So what does this mean to you? Do you need a new voltmeter? No, not really. What’s important is to not the reading on your meter when you fence is clean, and then every time you check your fence, it should be close to that reading. If it’s way down from this original reading, then you better check your charger and your fence.

How to test your ground rods

The photo above illustrates how to use an electric fence voltmeter to test your ground rods.

What you need to do, with your fence charger on, is first ground out the fence with good conductors such as copper pipes. Place the pipes at least 300′ or more from the location of the charger. Then take your voltmeter and put the probe in the ground as far away from the ground rods as the wire on the probe will allow (about a foot and a half or so) and read the voltage on the meter. What you are doing here is checking the electrical connection of the ground rods to the surrounding soil. You want to see how good the electricity going into the ground from the copper pipes shorting out the fence returns back into the ground rods. To pass the test you should get a reading of .3 kv (that’s 300 volts) or less. The lower the reading, the better your ground rods are working. A zero reading would be ideal.

So what if you do the test and your meter reads over 300 volts? Maybe something like 1.6 kv? Then keep adding ground rods until it reaches 300 volts or less. Additional ground rods should be located at least 10 feet away from the first ground rod. The test will show if you have either an insufficient number of ground rods, or if your existing rods are not functioning because they are corroded. Ground rods need to be replaced every few years as they get corroded. They don’t last forever.

Also, you will need to own an electric fence voltmeter both to do this test and to check your fence on a regular basis. I say this because many people don’t buy one, or won’t buy one for some reason, and if I see that you don’t own one and thus cannot have done this test, and have damaged your charger, then the warranty won’t apply because the charger was not installed correctly.

Alternating Hot and ground wires 

Q: Is it ok to use just two wires for pigs, a ground wire on the bottom, and a hot wire on top?

A: The general rule when using alternating hot and ground wires is to have a hot wire on top, and and a hot wire on the bottom. Pigs will lift up on the bottom wire because they’re very strong. If your bottom wire is a cold wire, the pig could lift it up and get under the fence without getting shocked. I think it would be better to have a hot wire on the bottom at 12″, a ground wire in the middle at 18″ and a hot wire on top at 24″ for pigs. If you really wanted to use only 2 wires, then a hot on the bottom so when the pig lifts up on it he will get shocked.

Q: In wet conditions, it’s best to have a fence with all hot wires. In dry and rocky soil conditions, it’s best to have alternating hot and ground wires. So what do I do if it’s dry half the year and wet the other half?

A: I can install a switch on your fence. When the weather is wet, you flip the switch in one direction and all the wires are hot, when the dry season comes, you simply flip the switch the other direction and now your fence has alternating hot and ground wires. Simple.

Training Animals to an Electric Fence

It has been said after the electric fence is installed, the job is not completed until the animal is trained to the fence. How is this done? The idea is to teach the animal that they cannot just get a shock and continue on through the electric fence. This is done by placing the animal in a pen with electric fence wires in front of a solid hog wire or wood plank type fence. The animals are placed in the pen and allowed to wander around and get shocked by the fence on their own. This usually takes a day or two, then they are ready to be contained by an electric fence only. Sometimes the fence is “baited” by hanging food on the electric wires so the animals will get shock. They soon learn to stay away from the fence.

If you don’t such a pen, I once instructed a customer to stand on the outside of his fence and hold the food bucket. Usually when he did this his goats would come up to him for food when they heard the food in the bucket noise. But in this case, the goats stopped about 3 feet away from the fence. The idea here was to make sure that all the goats respected the fence and if any goats tried to get shocked and continue on through the fence, the farmer was there to stop them, as he took the place of the permanent fence.

There are two good books I can recommend that have information on training animals to the fence:

Grass Fed Cattle: How to produce and market natural beef, by Julius Reuchel

Electric Fencing: How to Choose, Build, and Maintain the Best Fence for Your Plants and Animals, by Ann Larkin Hansen

Here’s one more example that I used successfully. I just got a bull. When he arrived, the bull was  walked alongside the inside of the fence (he had a rope attached to a harness on his head). The bull eventually rubbed his side on the electric fence and got a good shock, and learned to stay away from the fence. He is now trained to the fence.

How to get free animals to graze your land

One day last year I had a problem: I had lots of weeds on my land and I wanted manure to grow stuff. So I got the idea to put an ad on Craig’s list advertising free pasture for cows. The cows could eat all my weeds so I wouldn’t have to spend time weedeating anymore and I would get free manure to grow my garden. In return, the owner of the cows would get free pasture – an equal trade.

I was surprised by the results of my ad. I got over 7 calls within days from people with cows and even horses looking for pasture land. I was unaware that pasture land was in such demand because I found out that these animals just eat and eat and eat and it is very easy to over graze land which I think many people do.

What you will need is to have your land adequately fenced so that you can show the owner that his animals will be safely contained and not run away on you. Cows are easy as they don’t require a roof, but if you choose to get horses or goats or sheep, the owner may want a roof so they have protection from the rain. You may also need to provide water tanks for the animals to drink from, however, I find that because my cows that are eating just grass and no grain,  they never drink from my water troughs. It seems the fresh grass provides all the water they need, judging from the 5 minute pee I see them doing. It’s also a plus if you have your land divided into paddocks so you can rotate the animals – I’m sure the owner would be impressed by this that his animals are well taken care of.

So place ad on Craig’s list, I’m sure you’ll get plenty of responses. If you have prime pasture land you may even be able to make some money renting out your pasture. Electric fencing is the most economical and effective way to fence your land, and is especially useful for dividing your pasture into paddocks for rotational grazing, and I can help you with this.

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