Why Build High-Tensile Fences?
By this time, most farmers have heard of high-tensile fencing, but many do not realize all the advantages. I grew up on the family dairy farm which my wife, Phyllis, and I now own. My dad fenced the milk cows with two strands of 12 1/2 gauge barbed wire and the heifers with three strands. My brother, Jim, and I had the endless job of keeping the electric fence hot.
The animals stayed in well as long as the fence was hot enough. Of course, we had a challenge when we took breeding aged heifers out of the pens to the back pasture. They had to learn the limits to their new freedom; this often took several days of chasing animals and fixing fence. If the animal went through the fence before it knew to expect a shock, it commonly knocked a wire off a porcelain insulator onto a steel post. The fence would be dead and ineffective. A number of bleeding backs and legs appeared in those first days of pasture.
Cows that had just calved presented another high risk time. The udder would be swollen and wanting to find the calf. Barbed wire can really be expensive!
One of the least sought jobs for us was walking the fence with a sickle to trim the high grass and weeds away from the hot wires. For barnyard fence, woven wire was used. We couldn't afford it on the rest of the farm. It seemed like quite a project when it was replaced several times, even though it was only a couple hundred feet. The cattle liked to rub their necks on the wire so it normally had a fair sag.
When I took over the farm, one of my first projects was to build a "good" fence where I intended to pasture my heifers. I put up eight or more strands of barbed wire using smooth wire at about 4 foot intervals to hold the barbed strands together at proper spacings. Those heifers always seemed to think it was worth the pain and effort to get to the corn and alfalfa on the other side. I then realized how smart my dad really was in using electric fences.
An electric wire was installed on 2x4's nailed to the posts. We crossed the railroad tracks with the electric by putting electricians wire through buried plastic water pipe. The whole fence system went dead. The household wiring was only rated for 600 volts. A battery powered charger seemed the logical answer. The pulse was so weak I never could train the animals enough. When I saw the expensive battery going dead so fast, I junked the charger. Then we went over the railroad tracks. Our height calculations were proven to be wrong when the first train went through. The next efforts were only occasionally knocked down by railroad cranes. The electric wire was helpful, but required constant checking because the cattle were always pushing it onto the barbed wire where it would get caught and short out the fence. Within five years of being new, the barbed wire was falling apart from rust. The fence was useless.
All the farm's fences were badly deteriorated. After seeing 12.5 gauge barbed wire rust away so fast, I decided to go with the cheapest electric fencing possible. I put 17 gauge electric fence wire on steel rod posts. It was simple to put up, relatively easy to keep hot, and inexpensive. Occasionally the cattle or deer did break the wire, but it was easy to fix. What really turned me against the system was when my neighbor's black angus cow and yearling calf went up and down through all my fences dragging the wire all over the place. I had to keep the cattle in the barn for days until the fence was up and hot again.
After nearly 30 years on the farm, I found the fence problems to be the most aggravating and time wasting. Constant crop damage and poor PR for the neighbors makes a good permanent fence worth the investment. There is no sense in farming if you can't enjoy it.
The first High-Tensile Fence built on Kencove Farms was a three-wire electrified fence for cows and heifers. The pressure treated posts were installed fifty feet apart - keeping material costs very reasonable. The 12.5 gauge H-T wire has much greater strength, life and springy feel than any other farm fencing I have used. I have had my heifers go through the fence after leaving the electric off several months, but they did not damage the fence.
My next fencing project was across the railroad - replacing the barbed wire disaster. The fence is nearly five feet high to give deer control and is seven strands to give me more security when the electric is off. Solid treated wood line posts are spaced 200 feet apart. At 67 foot intervals, fiberglass posts are driven. Between each driven post is a fiberglass spacer which is clipped to the wires but is not in the ground. All wires are insulated for electric. Fiberglass makes it simple. This time an insulated underground cable was taken through a 30 inch pipe under the railroad. The fence has been great - no problems, even with the electric off most of the time. Most people who try High-Tensile Fencing are hooked on it!
Here is a list to summarize why High-Tensile Fence is best.
- Longer Life - much better coating on the wire.
- Greater Strength and Resiliency - Kencove wire is about twice the strength of two strand barbed wire of the same gauge.
- Low Cost - 2 cents per foot of wire is common. Wide post spacings give great savings.
- No Barbs give greater safety to all. Tightening is simple by allowing wire to move freely at posts. The wire can expand over a long length giving it a very springy feel.
- Versatile - the fence can be built to meet your needs.
- Maintenance is easy with permanently installed wire tighteners.
- Electrification on any or all strands is simple. The New Zealand type power chargers are much easier to keep hot in heavily weeded areas.
- Installation can be much more enjoyable than working with prickly barbed or heavy woven wire rolls.
- Control of deer, coon, bear, and coyote can be more effective and affordable with High-Tensile and high power electric fence chargers.