How to build an electric fence for cattle.

An electric fence is a cheap and moveable solution to the issue of how to confine cattle or any other livestock.  If you have a larger area to partition or gaps or weaknesses in your current fencing then learning how to build an electric fence for cattle will help you erect an electric fence that will solve your fencing problems.

Electric fencing doesn’t only work for cattle but is a great solution for horses, sheep, pigs – indeed any livestock that needs keeping in.

Start by working out what you are fencing – and more importantly how big the fencing needs to be.  You don’t want to be purchasing too much or too little.  Measure the length of the entire run of fencing you are looking to erect.

Have a think about the following;  do you want a permanent structure around a paddock – or something to strip graze and easily moveable?  Equally importantly how high do you need your fencing to be?   If you are holding deer you need something higher than if you are containing pigs.  How many gateways do you want to include?

You need the length of the fencing to be insulated, that means the tape or wire cannot touch any conductors or the ground or vegetation.  The fence operates by the current traveling along the wire or tape making it ‘live’ – when the animal connects with the fencing it allows the current to travel through the animal to the earth and that gives the animal a ‘shock’, not enough to harm it, but enough to deter it.

What you need to buy:


The power will come from an energizer unit.  This can be battery operated, battery and solar operated, or mains operated.  The source of power and the energizer you choose will depend upon what you want to do with your fencing, all of the choices are yours.

A mains operated energizer will be located inside a building, you will suffer no breaks in power and is cheap to run.

If you are intending to move your fencing regularly you need a dry-battery powered energizer.  These are easy to move around and don’t need a lot of maintenance.  They aren’t rechargeable, but you should get between 4 and six months of use before replacement is necessary.

If you choose a battery-operated system then you can have a moveable system, these usually use leisure batteries for power.

If you are erecting a permanent or semi-permanent fence line then a 12v energizer with a 12v 80 ampere per hour leisure battery is more suited.  These are more powerful than dry batteries, can power longer fence-lines and are rechargeable.


The posts can be plastic moveable fence posts, and some of these are quite strong – or you could put in wooden stakes or electro-wood.  The plastic fences are usually used by those who want a moveable fence whereas stakes give you more security against damage and form a permanent structure.


There are options out there – from sprung hooks which are easy to use through to something far more permanent.  The spring hooks work well for most fencing erections.


There are a number of options of fencing to run through to carry the current.  The tape is great for horses, it’s very visible but does tend to take damage and not have the lifespan of poly wire or electric fencing rope, you can even get netting for sheep or goats.


You need the correct insulators to work for the fencing you have purchased – for poly wire these will be screw in eye bolts with insulators for wooden posts or they will feed through specially designed holes molded into the plastic fencing posts.  Every aspect of the fencing will be insulated to prevent it from earthing to the ground.


The fencing will need an earth terminal for safety.  Make sure that this is fitted correctly.  You should use at least a 1metre galvanized earthing stake regardless of the fencing or battery system you have chosen.  If you use a mains energizer and have sandy or light soil than you could need a longer stake.  If you need more than one space them at least 3 meters apart and use a lead-out cable to connect them.


Fencing: Once you have your fencing up and running then test it.  Test the end furthest from the power source, you are looking for anything over 3000 volts for cattle.

Earth Stake:  At least 100m from the earth stakes short the electric fence to earth with your tester.  Connect one probe to a stake and push the other in the ground as far away as possible.  You want to be over 400 volts at this point – if you are less than that then you need to look at the condition of the earth.

In looking at how to build an electric fence for cattle we have covered all livestock because it really is a multi-purpose solution.  You will want to make sure that the fence posts are secure, and the current is not likely to fail, but with minimum ongoing care and maintenance an electric fence for livestock is an economical solution to most fencing issues both temporary and permanent.

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