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Fencing systems

 
Joseph Weidinger
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Hey everyone. I've been reading stuff on permies for a while and finally decided to join.

Got a question for fencing systems that's rather specific. Honestly, this may be the wrong place, but I don't know where else (other forum community even) that this would be better suited for.

We rotationally graze a small head of cattle on 40 acres. We have a $70 charger that is rated up to 10 miles although we're currently only using about 1-2. We've been having problems with the charge being lost every other day it seems. One of the cows is particularly adventurous and is quick to discover when the charge is gone and will exploit it. It annoyed me so much that I spent some money on a Speedrite Fault Finder. Not only does it give voltage readings but amperage also (which helps locating the fault immensely, well, supposedly).

I did a bunch of experiementing, testing random places, looking for brush hitting the wire, etc. etc. I fixed some things and now I have a charge again, but it's weak. I got about 1800 V in there now. I got 9000 V coming off the charger. It drops immediately to 3500 once I hook up 1/4 mile of fencing (a high strand, no vegetation hitting it). Once I hook up the rest of that side of the road (1/2 - 1 mile), it goes to 1800 V. There is some vegetation there but unavoidable (this is tall grass grazing after all and our rolls have to go through tall grass).

What bugs me is I'm getting 0 amps the entire time (no current, no leak). The current reading is how you find the fault, but with 0 amps, I supposedly am not getting any faults... Doesn't make sense. Why would I be dropping 7000 volts? Ideas?

Attached is a picture of my charger and 1 ground rod that is 3' in the ground. I have 3 in total, all 3' in ground by a pond. Note that in this location, we have 2 strands, but the bottom wire is disconnected (because of the tall grass).

We use aluminum and galvanized steel wire, even for the rolls, pretty much like Joel Salatin.

Any advice is appreciated.
2014-06-26 17.26.46.jpg
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Neal Foley
Posts: 49
Location: union Maine
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The usual reason for a fence not charging at all or having a low charge is grounding..... You would be surprised how important this is. I've fought grounding issues and 9 times out of 10 that is the solution.

Three ground rods, buried 3ft each....hmmm..... I bet the book on your charger suggests something more akin to 4 to 6 rods each driven 8ft in the ground..... And it looks like your connection to the ground rod is pretty weak. It also looks like your ground rod is some sort of aluminum pole..... Trust me, it's worth going to Home Depot or and electrical supply somewhere and buying 3 or 4--or the recommended amount--of steel coated copper ground rods and driving them in as deep as possible, or laying them in a ditch all around 10ft apart, using proper cable to rod clamps.

I got a phone call the other day to come shoot some cattle which were out roaming a neighborhood because the owner was away on a trip and the cattle kept breaking out of a very poor electric fence and were destroying property....not a great recipe for farming for anyone.

I know this sounds like a pain, especially of your rotationally grazing.....Another thing just popped into my head..... Your using wire. There can be an impedance mis-match. In other words, certain chargers need certain kinds of wire. Poly-wire, which is what I use because its reliable, fast and easy to wind and move around and lasts and can be repaired on the fly, requires a certain kind of pulse. If the charger can't deliver that then it can melt the polywire or just not work. I don't know if the same is true for aluminum, etc. I have also only ever built and used Hi-tensile wires for perimeter fencing, which, again, I made sure the charger could handle the load.

How many strands of wire are you charging? The connections are critical. Voltage is lost at each mend, or connection. And each strand of wire is counted...so my 2 miles of 5 strand perimeter fencing is really 10 miles of wire, plus around another mile of temporary paddock dividing, etc. Also, making sure the ground is wet helps. I had a heck of a time with a herd of cattle and a solar charger because it was too dry for the grounding rods...

Finally.....I know budgets are tight. but $70 is awfully cheap for a charger. I don't even recognize the brand and I've used many. My reliable go-to chargers are either Gallagher or Speedrite. I've also used an Intelishock portable to run pigs, but it didn't last nearly as long as the cheaper, less zappy Gallagehr S-10 solar.

The other thing to consider with chargers isn't how many miles it's rated for.....lots of things can affect that....it's how big a punch it delivers. For cattle--especially Highlands like I like to run--require something quite hot, like around 9 joules, so that if the voltage dips or it's rainy and grass is against the fence it still delivers a zap. Jerseys require less, because their more docile. Sheep require something quite hot too because they can be numb and have wool on their heads. Pigs only need it to be hot once, usually.....

I'm currently running my horses with just an uncharged strand of poly-wire. As long as there is grass, they're not going to test it.

You did good getting the Speedrite Fault Finder...they're great. I really miss having my Speedrite charger and fault finder which could turn the fence off anywhere along the line...... Another things worth considering is getting a Scythe and trim your fence lines. A few minutes spent clearing the perimeter can really help take the load off the charger and then a single high strand to cross fence works very well.

Hope this helps, some.....

 
Joseph Weidinger
Posts: 26
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Thanks for the great response.

Originally my brother set this up and he had 1 galvanized steel rod (I'm pretty sure that's what 2/3 of our rods are, the 3rd is rebar) that was 1 ft in the ground and it seemed to be doing better than this (but we weren't tall grass grass / rotational grazing then). I would drive them in farther but they look like they probably impossible to get out and I'm not confident about the placement just yet. I'll think about it. The charger recommends 3. I'll see if I can get some clamps to make the connection better. I'll get some of those rods too (even if 2/3 of ours are the right kind, the more the merrier).

The $70 charger was just the cheapy bought at a local hardware store. I couldn't find any online info regarding the brand. We're looking to upgrade to a Satfix 3x - 3J output rated at 30 miles of fence (we have 40 acres and probably a max of 5-6 miles of fence in the future, 1-2 max currently). We're planning on adding a few more strands (we only have 1 hot strand currently, another under it in some areas was turned off because of the tall grass). Our gauging is 14 and 17 mixed. I think the charger recommends 10-17.

We've definitely weed-eated a lot of the fencing. I'll start with the ground and get a new charger soon and see how that does.

Thanks!
 
Neal Foley
Posts: 49
Location: union Maine
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Another thing you can consider, since the lower wire is shorting out due to tall grass, is to turn it into a ground.....just connect it to the ground line, that way there is a positive zap for the cattle if they think about going through the fence.....

And just for those others reading this who need to use 7ft high orchard type woven fencing to keep deer or coons out of a place....turn the whole woven fence into the ground and then put 2 or 3 hot lines spaced 3 inches outside the fence.....as a coon or something tries to scale the fence they cross one hot wire and if they're closely spaced, as they try to get over the next, they get caught hitting it as they are grabbing the fence.....

Nothing more satisfying than hearing several coons grunting as they get hit trying to get into a growie space......
 
Joseph Weidinger
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Yeah, we were just talking about that last night. Attach one end to the ground and then the other end to a fence post (for now) and a grounding rod (later).

My big hesitation in putting grounding rods in that deep is... how do I get them out? I see people with a smooth steel rod 5.5 ft in the ground with a few inches hanging out. We take fence posts out with a tractor loader if it is that deep, but in this case there would be nothing to attach a chain around. Guess we could wet the ground before hand. Or drill a hole through the middle and run something through the hole that we can attach to the chain. I don't know...
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Use a vicegrip to get a grab on the ground rod to pull it up. Since it is smooth, you can usually give it a twist and it will come up.

 
Neal Foley
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Location: union Maine
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R Scott wrote:Use a vicegrip to get a grab on the ground rod to pull it up. Since it is smooth, you can usually give it a twist and it will come up.



I would also add that a cheap-o fence post puller works pretty good on ground rods--you can grab and pull, reset, grab and pull, reset, etc all the way up--and are always handy to have around the farm......
 
Joseph Weidinger
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Sounds pretty easy.

Is there any explanation why my fault finder displays constantly a 0 amp reading? If I artificially create a fault, the current still reads 0 but the volt simply goes down (or to 0, depnding on the severity).
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Maybe your fencer doesn't put out enough power for the fault finder? I don't know
 
Joseph Weidinger
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Well, I manned up and bought a Stafix x3 after getting tired of spending 20 minutes a day gathering up cattle and fixing fence. Currently it's powering a small section that the previous only could manage 0-4kV. That baby is puttin' out 12.5 kV. Suffice it to say, I'm not looking forward to the next time I accidentally touch it. And now I get amp readings!
 
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