02 Feb Why Choose Electric Fencing?
Written by Brandon Sams
The “Fence Boy’s” Testimony
When it comes to fencing, there are many different options available. Trying to decide which type of fencing better suits your needs, and your budget, can be quite overwhelming. Going forward, I’ll share my experiences with different types of fencing and why I chose electric fencing to be my preferred choice.
Growing up, my dad operated a small dairy farm and raised a lot of tobacco. Tobacco was our primary source of income until the government deregulated it in 2004, prompting many tobacco growers to abandon the crop and find another source of revenue. My dad followed suit, and chose to increase the dairy herd and abandon tobacco once and for all.
With all this land now available for cattle, we now needed more fencing. Our other pastures were fenced mostly with 4-strand barbed wire, steel t-posts, and wood bracing. I, being the young pup with a strong back, quickly became the “fence boy”. Dad rolled in one evening with a trailer load of fence materials. Yes, barbed wire, steel t-posts, and a lot of wood posts were going to be my new friends during that hot summer in 2005.
That entire summer was spent digging post holes by hand (we did not have the luxury of an auger or post pounder), slamming t-posts with a handheld driver, and stretching barbed wire the best way we knew how. To this day, I am reminded of that summer by all the scars on my arms and legs. This was, hands down, one of the most labor-intensive fences I have ever built.
While the fence turned out really nice and looked amazing, it did not stop the phone calls at 2 a.m. from the county Sheriff’s department that our cows were wandering down the highway by our house. We would stumble out of bed, grab our flashlights, and head off on a scavenger hunt. No matter how tight the wire or how sharp the barbs, the cows always seemed to find a way to weasel their way through or would just flat out push the steel t-posts over to make their escape.
Fast forward a couple of years, dad got sick and tired of us having to chase cows. On an evening eerily similar to that one in 2005, he rolled in with a trailer load of wood posts and woven wire. I can remember him saying, “they won’t get through this”, as I was grabbing my boots and gloves to begin another summer as “fence boy”. Hole, after hole, after hole was dug to set all the wood posts that were going to build a “cow proof” fence. The posts were set, the wire was stretched (thankfully this time we used the tractor), and all the staples were hammered in. This, again, turned out to be a beautiful fence! But, as it turns out, the cows don’t care how pretty it is.
Within just a few months, the fence looked horrible. Apparently, our cattle really liked scratching their backs. They had pushed on the fence to the point that the wire was stretching, the staples were coming out, and large “gaps” were getting created at the bottom. A few more buckets of staples, steel t-posts to anchor the gaps, and lots more stretching were done to make the fence function. It sure didn’t look as good then.
One may say, “well ya’ll just didn’t know how to build fence”, and maybe that’s true, but we worked with what we KNEW back then. Sure, we had heard of electric fence. We had also heard of the horror stories told to us by other farmers in the area who had tried it (apparently they just didn’t know how to properly install it). Because of this, we never gave it a shot.
Fast forward several more years, by now the internet was booming, information was readily available at the click of a button, and YouTube had been born. Boy, how I wish this was available when I was dad’s “fence boy”. Unfortunately, by this time dad had since passed away, I had gone off to college to chase my dream of playing professional baseball, and the farm had been sold. I never made it to the MLB, so I vowed to one day get back into agriculture as a testament to my dad.
After bouncing around in finance and insurance, I came across a job working in agricultural fencing sales, primarily electric fencing. I had not yet been able to purchase my own farm (although I spent a lot of evenings and weekends helping friends and neighbors) and remember thinking that this would be a great way to get back into agriculture. I also remember thinking to myself that dad would probably tell me what he had said about electric fencing before, “it won’t work”. You see, here in the south we tend to be reluctant to change. I personally value that culture, but I will admit that sometimes change can be good.
After taking the job, one of my first assignments was to go out and physically build an electric fence. Having spent many summers building labor intensive fence, I thought “what have I got myself into now”. I arrived on the jobsite to take part in this “training”. I saw a lot of white plastic posts, high tensile smooth wire, and some even larger white plastic posts to be used for bracing. On the outside, I was very observant, but on the inside, I was laughing hysterically thinking of what my dad had instilled in me, “it won’t work”.
Fencing doesn’t have to be physical; it can be psychological!
Boy, was I wrong! What I learned that day was a true “ah-ha” moment. I learned that you don’t have to have the big, heavy wooden posts, the Pandora’s box of barbed wire, nor the maintenance laden woven wire. This little, smooth, high tensile wire, when coupled with 9,000 volts of electricity, was all you needed!
The installation went quicker than any fence I’ve ever built. Of course we still dug holes for our braces, but I’ve since been spoiled by handheld augers which make quick work of setting braces. We drove the t-posts, which also went quick because we didn’t have to drive as many. With electric fence, your posts can be spaced much farther than with barbed or woven wire. Once that was done, all we had to do was run the wire. With the posts we were using (which, if you haven’t figured out already, were Timeless Fence System Rigid PVC t-posts), we did not need insulators, so we literally just pulled the wire through and we were done! If this were available 30 years ago, dad and I would have had a lot less sleepless nights!
As if the ease of installation wasn’t enough, I’ll share a few more advantages of electric fencing with you. What really blew my mind was the cost savings. When you look at the cost-per-foot of an electric fence versus other alternatives, the majority of the time the electric fence is cheaper, significantly cheaper! Keep in mind, this is just the up-front cost. When you consider the long-term costs associated with maintenance, again, electric fencing blows the competitors out of the water! I tend to think back on all the time I spent repairing fence as a kid. If we had used electric fence, I would have had more time to practice baseball. Oh, what might have been!