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cheapest livestock fencing

 
Mariah Wallener
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Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
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I'm curious to know what solutions people have found for getting fencing up on the cheap.

We have pigs coming in May. Last year we used portable electric fencing: plastic stakes on which electric tape can be hung. On the plus side it was easy to set up, easy to move, and relatively inexpensive. On the down side, it shorted out often due to vegetation growing onto it, and this also limited where we could move them to. Plus the only power source is near the house so also limited how far away they could be. And when we lost power, which is not an infrequent occurrence here, the pigs would escape. It snowed early here last year, before the pigs went off to become pork, and that added problems too. We'd like something more permanent that we could put around a large area (~ 50 x 100) and then use the electric to restrict them to sections that we'd rotate them through.

The second issue is my dog. She's not a jumper, but not sure the electric fence would deter her when in Predator Mode (i.e. squirrels, unknown dogs, etc). Right now we have no fencing on the property and I'd like to give her a good area to run around in.

Metal t-posts are relatively inexpensive, but add up when needing to fence a large area. Plus, what to string between them? Plastic mesh fencing is not that cheap and it's hard to secure tightly enough that critters won't get underneath it. We do have lots of wood we could use as posts, but its almost all Douglas Fir and I don't want to be dipping it in anything nasty to keep it from rotting. And again there's the issue of what to string between the posts. I'd use the Doug Fir if it could keep me in fencing for a couple of years, enough to save up for the Real Thing.

Any suggestions?
 
Abe Connally
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I use electric fencing, and I have never had a pig escape.  We trained them on it when they are young, and 90% of the time, I have it turned off.  In fact, I don't even have a charger on the fence right now, and it has been that way for about 3 months.

They occasionally bump into it, but never try to pass through it.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Initially when the pigs get there you need to rehome them to your place and get them used to you. Build a solidly physically fenced pen by the pastures. Put electric INSIDE of that physical fence. Put the pigs in there. They'll learn about electricity, you and that this is their home space. Hog panels or pallets are both good solutions for making this initial physical fence.

Out in the pasture make a strong perimeter fence of several wires at low nose, walking nose and possibly a higher wire. This is your last defense as it were. If everything the pigs want is within the fencing they'll stay in. The fence is psychological - ouch hurts stay back. If you have a visual barrier just outside it like a stone wall, logs, etc that helps too.

Divide up the pasture into paddocks. Read up about Managed Rotational Grazing if you're not already familiar with it. See:

http://www.google.com/search?q=site:flashweb.com+managed%20rotational%20grazing

Use a good strong energizer on the fence. I would suggest a minimum of 2.5 joules. More is better. A 6 joule energizer is about $200 and well worth it. A 15 joule charger is about $300 and worth it if you're fencing a large area. We use three of them for 70 acres.

http://www.kencove.com/fence/Mains+Energizers_detail_EK15.php

Install lightning protection and surge suppression for the fence.
 
                      
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It may seem a little redneck, but there was a guy who kept hogs near here and he used old bed springs for fences. If you can find a bunch of them, it could work.

If you have no access to good fence wood on your property, throw an ad up on craigslist farm and garden. I would imagine someone near you probably cuts hedge posts or whatever fencing wood is used in your area (we see hedge used a lot, but locusts are thick on my property). If someone has a nice stand of hedge near you, ask if you can cut some posts. It can be good for the tree to thin it out a bit anyway.

I would probably us woven wire fencing and posts. T posts would probably be faster, but hedge posts may cost less (plus they look cool).
 
tel jetson
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trees make good fence posts if you've got them in the right spots.  it's easy to tie electric fencing to trees with baling twine so that it floats a few inches away from the trees and avoids shorts.  plus side is the posts are free.  down side is they aren't portable, unless you're not in any hurry and can just plant something that grows fast on the corners of each paddock.  it's a real good solution, just not one that works for everybody.

for energizing on the cheap, I have one idea, but I can't really recommend it.  my grandpa ran a wire from the circuit breaker in his barn for a while.  and that was it.  120-volt alternating current directly into the electric fence.  he was keeping cattle in, though, so the single hot wire was a lot higher than it would be for hogs and he could make absolutely sure there weren't any shorts.  several of his children and grandchildren got nasty shocks from that setup, and it's potentially lethal.  cheap, though.
 
                      
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I know a guy who still does something similar, and he was telling me last spring about 2 raccoons he killed in one night with that fence. It just seems like way too much of a liability, and crazy dangerous.
 
                    
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tel jetson wrote:
trees make good fence posts if you've got them in the right spots.  it's easy to tie electric fencing to trees with baling twine so that it floats a few inches away from the trees and avoids shorts. 


Can you please expand on how to tie electric fencing to trees with baling twine.  Sounds like a perfect solution for me as I have loads of trees.
 
Walter Jeffries
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tel jetson wrote:for energizing on the cheap, I have one idea, but I can't really recommend it.  my grandpa ran a wire from the circuit breaker in his barn for a while.  and that was it.  120-volt alternating current directly into the electric fence.


This is a very, very, very bad idea. I can't emphasize this enough. Proper fence energizers produce a short high voltage, low current spike of milliseconds and then turn off for the rest of the second. This allows you to let go and does not deliver a killing blow. Yes, this used to be done but now there are better low impedance fence energizers.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Riki wrote:Can you please expand on how to tie electric fencing to trees with baling twine.  Sounds like a perfect solution for me as I have loads of trees.


Sometimes I do this with the twine . Simply an open loop around the tree and to the wire. But the twine rot within a year. It's a technique I use for temporarily holding wires when setting up fencing.  These insulators are a better solution:

http://www.kencove.com/fence/Insulators_products_1_58.php

Tractor Supply also carries some.

I use trees a lot for both corner, end and line posts. When clearing fields I leave trees in the right places. Since we have thin soil over ledge it is hard to put in posts. Next I use boulders - plenty of those and they stay put. In both I set an eye bolt, using a rock hammer for the stones. Then off of that I put a bullnose connector (see the page above) and then the hot wire.
 
tel jetson
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Riki wrote:
Can you please expand on how to tie electric fencing to trees with baling twine.  Sounds like a perfect solution for me as I have loads of trees.


pubwvj pretty much covered it.  just tie a loop around the tree in question.  make sure it's got some slack in it so it's easy to get the fence through and so the fence won't touch the tree.  they're held in place by the tension of the fence.

everybody out here bales with poly twine, which doesn't rot, but does slowly break down in sunlight.  should be good for a couple of years, though.  the insulators pubwvj linked might work better, but baling twine is generally free.

just remember to remove the twine or insulators long before they start cutting into the trees.

pubwvj wrote:
This is a very, very, very bad idea. I can't emphasize this enough. Proper fence energizers produce a short high voltage, low current spike of milliseconds and then turn off for the rest of the second. This allows you to let go and does not deliver a killing blow. Yes, this used to be done but now there are better low impedance fence energizers.


for the record, I absolutely agree.  there were a couple close calls over the years.  I mostly mentioned it as a wasn't-my-grandpa-nutty story.  he did switch to energizers after one of my cousins got shocked.
 
tel jetson
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I'll also strongly suggest that folks resist the urge to staple wire to trees, or screw lag insulators directly into them, or otherwise put metal in living trees.  they get forgotten, damage trees, and are dangerous if the tree is ever cut down.  so don't do it.  no metal in trees.
 
Mariah Wallener
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Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
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Thanks for the ideas, folks.

There are some parts where we could use trees, but only along the short ends. Still, very good to think about if we put in more paddocks.

I wanted to avoid electric fencing because running the wire all the way from the garage was a pain, as was dealing with the other elements I mentioned. But I guess to have really pig-proof fencing without it you need to put it in deep so they can't root it out. And that ends up costing b/c we have no equipment to dig with and doing it by hand in our rocky soil is back-breaking work that us forty-somethings are just not up to for that long a line. So seems like electric really is the cheapest way to go.

As for the pigs, they were trained to electric fence when we got 'em and showed mucho respect for it...when it was live. For some reason they seemed to know when it was off - either that or one of 'em would just brush up against it by accident, realize they didn't get a shock that day, and then run off to greener or more interesting parts of the property. Smart buggers. Which is partly why we like them so much.

 
tel jetson
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I don't believe anybody mentioned using batteries for fence energizers.  if distance from a source of electricity is an issue, batteries might be the solution.  there are energizers available that can run on both 12-volt batteries and 120-volt ac.  the batteries will be another investment, but good used batteries are sometimes available for cheap if you know where to look.  I don't know where to look, but I know somebody who does, which is almost as good.
 
                      
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The battery systems often come with small solar cells as well. However, they aren't as powerful as the plug in types and are more expensive. If your soil is really rough, it may be worth it.

 
tel jetson
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stewartrIL wrote:
The battery systems often come with small solar cells as well. However, they aren't as powerful as the plug in types and are more expensive. If your soil is really rough, it may be worth it.


the solar cells are real expensive.  cool in theory, but I haven't yet talked to anybody who was really satisfied with a solar fence charger.  not only does it have to keep the fence energized while the sun is shining, it has to charge a battery at the same time to get through cloudy periods and evenings.  could make sense for somebody with a whole hell of a lot of land, I suppose.

we use a wall outlet when the fence is close to one, and a deep cycle 12-volt battery when it's further afield.  we charge up the battery with a trickle charger periodically.
 
Abe Connally
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I have 2 12V fence chargers.  I put a cheap (harbor freight) solar panel on their battery.  I am completely satisfied with them.  They never fail to give a really good shock.                 
 
tel jetson
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velacreations wrote:
I have 2 12V fence chargers.  I put a cheap (harbor freight) solar panel on their battery.  I am completely satisfied with them.  They never fail to give a really good shock.                 


I'll hazard a guess that your latitude is a lower number than mine.
 
Walter Jeffries
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I use the AC plugin units rather than solar or battery because I can get a far stronger energizer for less money. The solar units are expensive and I've heard of a lot of people not getting enough power from them. My suspicion is that the quality varies greatly between units - some have underpowered solar panels and batteries. The other big issue might be how cloudy vs sunny is your climate.

For us it is easier to simply run the AC unit that powers our outer perimeter ring and then paddock fences off of that. This is miles of wire. If you have AC power, plug your unit in near the house or barn and then simply run fence to where you need it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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tel jetson wrote:
I'll also strongly suggest that folks resist the urge to staple wire to trees, or screw lag insulators directly into them, or otherwise put metal in living trees. 


I fasten fencing to trees by putting a wire through a piece of hose passed around the tree, and then attaching the wire to the fence.
 
tel jetson
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pubwvj wrote:
I use the AC plugin units rather than solar or battery because I can get a far stronger energizer for less money. The solar units are expensive and I've heard of a lot of people not getting enough power from them. My suspicion is that the quality varies greatly between units - some have underpowered solar panels and batteries. The other big issue might be how cloudy vs sunny is your climate.

For us it is easier to simply run the AC unit that powers our outer perimeter ring and then paddock fences off of that. This is miles of wire. If you have AC power, plug your unit in near the house or barn and then simply run fence to where you need it.


sounds like a difference in scale.  for our purposes, more than adequate output would have cost roughly the same for battery, AC, or both.  but then, at any one time I probably energize a few thousand feet of fence at most.  big difference from your miles of wire.
 
Walter Jeffries
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tel jetson wrote:
sounds like a difference in scale.  for our purposes, more than adequate output would have cost roughly the same for battery, AC, or both.  but then, at any one time I probably energize a few thousand feet of fence at most.  big difference from your miles of wire.


*grin* It is amazing how fast the miles build up even for a one acre system as described below. You are probably right that it is a difference in scale, we're fencing in 70 acres and have a lot of paddocks but we also run multiple 15 joule chargers each of which powers a different section.

To calculate wire length it is the total length of wire used. That is to say if you had five wires high of fencing on a 250' x 250' (about 1 acre) then you would have about one mile of wire. Perimeter = 250' x 4 sides x 5 wires = 5,000' of wire. This is how they calculate it for the fencing. Then if you sub-divided that one acre into four paddocks with three wires high that would add 2 x 250' x 3 = 1,500' more for a total of 6,500' of wire.

Electronetting is an even higher count and drains down the systems very easily. It is critical to get good grounding for the energizer, have good connections and minimize shorts in the fence. Keeping wires tight helps a lot.

Once properly setup, good fencing is wonderful. Combine that with livestock guardian and herding dogs and you're well protected from predators plus the dogs will put back in livestock that gets out - it happens.
 
paul wheaton
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Karen Biondo of La biondo Farm and Kitchen, on Vashon Island in Washington state, shows off her fence made of pallets.  After getting this bit of video, she showed me another pallet fence that wasn't doing so well - it used a zigzag design - but apparently could not stand up well to the animals.  And then there were designs with steel fence posts that weren't doing well either.  But this design, the one in the video, help up especially well.

Goats and pigs are both known to be extra hard on fence.  And this fence has held in both goats and pigs.

And she is in the same county as Seattle.  So this fence is tolerating a lot of wet rot!



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWQ13GCgc-M

 
Abe Connally
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it's funny, cause I used to be able to get all the pallets I ever wanted.  Now, I have to pay for them!  They are not a waste product where I live....
 
Tom Painemaru
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I saw this video and was stuck dumb with astonishment and amazement that bordered upon stupification. I have hundreds of feet of livestock fencing I've been wanting to put in but the cost has put me off for years.

'Woke up this morning and made a few phone calls. Now I have access to several hundred free pallets and a promise of more to come in the near future.

Wee ha! Life is good

Thanks to Karen and Paul for this inspiring video.
--
 
                                
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has anyone had any luck or expierience with a rip-gut fence?
 
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