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How Safe are Electric Fences?

November 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Electric fencing can be a huge benefit to farmers looking for humane ways to control the spread of livestock on a property. The fences give the animal a small shock, which helps to mentally teach them not to lean or trample the fence. It’s good for the property owner, who spends less money on fencing. It’s also beneficial to the garden as the fence helps keep vegetables safe from unwanted pests. Electric fencing is safe, but you have to know how it works to be able to make an informed decision about whether using it is right for you.

History of Fencing

During the 1950s, electric fencing became a popular means to control the population of livestock on a farm. The construction of electric fencing goes all the way back to 1832, but both New Zealand and the US began using them in the 1930s. Bill Gallagher was one of the early proponents, having rigged a fence through a car ignition. The main purpose was as horse fencing, but it helped to control all cattle on the farm and keep them within a property’s limits. From crude to well designed, fencing has changed dramatically since then. Especially as it pertains to delivering the shock to the animal in question.

How Fences Work

When the animal touches an electric fence, the shock that is felt is the result of a high voltage pulse the fence produces. Bare wire is strung across the length of the fence, and a power energizer sends electric pulses through it. Every fence needs something to ground it, so there is typically a metal rod forced into the earth to complete the full circuit. Even a solar powered electric fence follows these same conventions, with the only change being the light-absorbing panels and batteries that store the charge.

Volts and Amps

The true measure of safety is found in the amount of amps transferred to the subject during a shock. Fence makers like to play on a customer’s lack of knowledge, bragging about voltage with little said about amps. Voltage helps generate the current, but the amperage is what causes the shock. Typically, an electric fence sends a minimum of 2,000 volts. This is equivalent to the type of shock you receive touching a door knob.

Final Thoughts

Electric fences are safe for most livestock. Smaller animals can suffer pain from the shock if the fence is turned up too high, so fine tuning your fence to deliver the proper shock is essential if you have dogs or other small animals near your fence.

Related Story: Keep Your Horses Safe

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Jason Governo writes on behalf of Farm Supply Store, the Web’s leading resource for electric fencing.