Tools for a Successful Electric Pig Fence
How to Create the Best Electric Fence for Pigs
The old adage goes: a fence should be horse high, hog tight, and bull strong. In a homesteading lifestyle where livestock is raised, quality fencing is of the utmost priority. When I first got into raising pigs, I was told by some that they couldn’t be contained by electric. Pig fence had to be made of permanent panels because nothing else would contain them. I knew this couldn’t be true, and with proper training and a good design, there had to be a way.
Whether you’re raising pigs on pasture, or in the woods with a rotational grazing model, permanent fencing does not seem practical. It’s expensive, time-consuming to set up, disassemble, and move. Despite what I was told about an electric pig fence not being effective, I set out to do it anyway. With a good setup, I have successfully been able to contain 30-pound feeders, an 800-pound gilt, and every size in between without a single escape.
The key to a successful electric pig fence is using quality materials and taking your time to properly set it up. There are some scenarios where you can use a DIY fence, but in most cases, quality fencing is a wise investment that will serve you well for years. Let’s take a look at some common materials that are vital to success when containing pigs, and how to ensure they perform their best.
Low Impedance Charger and Grounding Rods
The backbone of any good electric fence is a quality charger and a strong ground. Low impedance chargers pulse short, strong currents as opposed to a continuous hot current. Whether you use a solar or a plug-in AC charger, investing in a quality one is worth the extra money. However, a fence charger is only as strong as its ground, and most fencing problems can be attributed to weak grounding. Grounding rods come in copper or galvanized steel, copper being the most conductive but also the most expensive. Whichever type you choose, the rods should be six feet long and sunk in moist soil as opposed to gravel or sandy soils to ensure a strong charge even in hot dry weather. There should be a minimum of three connected in line 10 feet apart if possible, with insulated wire and ground rod clamps.
Depending on the design of your set up, there are a variety of posts that can be used to keep the fence tight and at the appropriate height. T-posts with plastic insulators make ideal corner posts that are strong enough to be pulled against to keep the fence tight. If you are establishing permanent paddocks, they are worth using for longevity and less maintenance over time.
Fiberglass posts are easy to put into place between corners and make rotational grazing a breeze. There are two main types: step-in style with predetermined slots to run your fencing line through, or smooth rods that require plastic insulators to be added. The step-in style is convenient because you don’t have to add the additional insulators, however, I do not use them for pigs. If your land has any kind of elevation change, there is no moving the slots up and down to adjust the height of the line. For an animal as clever as a pig, small ones will easily be able to slip out under the lowest height. The smooth fiberglass rods, although they require additional plastic insulators, are well worth it. The insulators simply slide up and down the post, allowing you to pick whatever height you need depending on elevation and size of the pig you’re containing.
If you aren’t using a pre-made poly wire netting, the height of the wire for an electric pig fence is critical to containment. Small piglets or feeders can easily slip under a strand of wire if it isn’t low enough. As they grow, if the line is too low, they can leap over it. A three strand fence standing at four, eight, and twelve, to sixteen inches above the ground will contain a pig of any size. As the pig is trained, it will learn to respect and avoid the fence altogether. Currently, I have a single strand standing at snout height that is containing an 800-pound gilt successfully.
There are two main types of wire to consider when setting up your fence: 17-gauge steel and poly wire. After using both, I am a proponent of strictly using poly wire and will never go back to steel. Poly wire is easy to set up, doesn’t kink, easily gets tight and stays tight, and its yellow and black coloring makes it easy to spot. In free-range pig farming where rotational grazing is practiced, this wire is a dream to work with and makes short work of setup and tear down. We don’t ever waste any, because it easily wraps back around its spool for reuse, and pieces can simply be tied together in a knot to connect rather than using a wire crimp. It does, however, come at a slightly higher price tag than its steel counterpart, consumes more energy, and can fray and degrade over time. The amount of time and waste that is reduced by using it, however, makes it a worthwhile investment for me.
Insulated Gate Handles
Insulated rubber or plastic gate handles are something worth always having a few spares on hand. They simply are tied to the terminal end of each strand of poly wire (or steel wire) and connected to the line at a corner t-post completing the circuit. These are a vital component to our rotational grazing set up, as they easily allow us to move the pigs from one paddock to the next without having to take the entire side of a fence down.
The materials required for your electric pig fence will depend on how they’re raised. Are they going to be rotated throughout different paddocks? Will those paddocks move? Or, will they be set up in one established area? No matter what your set up is, with the right design and quality materials, you can successfully contain pigs on electric alone.