Pigs can be a troublesome farm animal to keep contained. They root and they dig, making them very problematic when trying to fence them in.
One option for controlling your hogs is to use a permanent fencing solution, such as wire mesh or wooden rails. But this isn’t ideal if you want to be able to move your pigs for grazing purposes.
Those wanting to move their pigs around their land might consider a portable electric fence as a solution. It offers several advantages over conventional fencing. But if it’s not implemented correctly you have the possibility of escaping pigs.
In this week’s pig farming tutorial I will explain how use electric fencing with pigs, highlighting some best practices and approaches. By the end of this article you will have a clearer idea of the best electric fencing solution for your pigs and hogs.
Reason to use electric fencing with your pigs
There are several advantages to using electric fencing for pigs. They are:
- It can be used as a portable electrical fencing system.
- It can be relatively cheap to fence a large area when compared with traditional fencing solutions – like pig panels.
- Can be used as part of pasture management system – usually done through rotational/strip grazing.
- It can be used to reinforce an existing fencing solution.
Things to consider
Compared with other livestock; pigs need a different approach when trying to contain them behind an electric fencing system.
Pigs are strong and fast, and they are very intelligent. This makes them harder to contain compared with other livestock, and farm animals.
If you want to efficiently contain your pigs with electric fencing, with little or no escapees, you must start by train training them. You will be teaching your pigs that they need to respect the fence, and that it’s not to be crossed.
The earlier this is done the better.
Respect the fence
Experienced pigs owners will start training their pigs when they are weaners. This is done in a controlled environment. You should setup a electric training fence, inside an existing pen.
To train your pigs to ‘respect the fence’, cordon off part of a pig pen, and allow them to touch (and get shocked) by a live electrical fence.
If your pigs escape your electric fence at this stage it does not matter. There will be no place for them to go because they are already contained by their old fence, or pen walls.
The purpose of this exercise is to teach them a valuable lesson – and that is to avoid that nasty wire.
Pigs are intelligent animals. And it doesn’t take them long to recognise the wire and know it should be avoided. Pigs also have excellent memories, and they usually remember this lesson for a long time.
This training can make containing your pigs far easier when using electrical fencing. The reason is that, once trained, your pigs won’t even go near the fence. If your fence is ever switched off or broken your hogs shouldn’t even attempt to try and get through.
As a rule though: the earlier you start this training, the better.
A basic livestock electrical fencing system consists of:
- Fencing (wire, tape or mesh)
- Fencing posts or fixings
- Energizer or charger
- Electrical source (Battery, Mains, or even solar)
- Electrical Earth
To setup electric livestock fencing: wire, electrical tape, or mesh is setup along a path. This path often contains the area where your livestock is to be kept.
The fencing wire is isolated from the ground, using posts or other fence wire holders. These holders are made from non-conductive materials such as plastic, rubber, metal covered with a non conductive coating.
An energizer is they used to convert energy from a battery, or your mains electric, into a suitable charge for your fencing. This charge is designed to shock you, but not kill you. A shock of this sort is often high in voltage (around 3500v-7000v for pigs) but low in amps.
This electrical charge is fired through the wire as a stream, or a pulse. However; the electrical fencing circuit does not complete until something connects it with the ground, allowing the current to earth. That something might be a pig, a cow, a horse, or even yourself if you ever grab hold of your fence.
When your pig touches the fence the circuit is complete, and the electrical current will ground, providing a nasty shock for the animal.
Grass, vegetation, and conductive fence posts (wood fence posts) can also complete the livestock fence electrical circuit. The result of this is to sap the effectiveness and kick of your electrical fence.
Setting up your electrical wire for pigs fencing
Rule of thumb is to use 2-3 stands of wire set at different heights. The number of stands used is determined by how tall the pigs are, and how aggressive your breed is.
Two strands of wire might be sufficient for weaners, but might not provide enough of a deterrent for bigger breeds – like Large White’s, Berkshires, etc.
If you dealing with wilder or aggressive breeds, it might be worth investing in a third strand of wire. These breeds might be more prone to trying to jump your fencing if it is too low.
Again, wire height is determined by the size of your pigs. Rule of thumb is one wire 4″-6″ high, and another 12″ high. If want to use a third strand of electrical wire set it around 24″ high. These are only rough guides, alter them as you see fit.
You might need alter your wire heights depending on the shape and type of land your pigs reside on. If you have hills, or mounds of ground, that are close to your fencing, and similar in height to that of your fence, you may need to raise the overall height of your fence in these areas. A determine porker might use a hill as a launch pad to jump over your fence, so be prepared to adjust height to suit the contour of your land.
Holding your Fence
There’s load of ways to hold your fencing wire in place. On our own farm we use plastic fencing posts in our portable setup. And we use small plastic eyelets to hold wire in place in permanent pig fencing setups – the eyelets are screwed into position into wooden fence posts.
Metal T-posts are another common way to hold your electrical fencing wire in place.
What you choose will be determined by your land, requirements and budget.
Just remember that you cannot simply attach your fencing wire to wood posts. Although wood is a poor electrical conductor, it is a conductor nonetheless. This will result in charging drain and a lower shock effect in your wire.
If you want to connect your wire to existing wooden structures – such as existing fencing posts, trees, sheds – use something to isolate the wire from the wood. This can be an eyelet designed for use with electrical livestock fencing, or it can be piece of plastic (at least a few millimetres thick), or a piece of rubber.
For those who dealing with a lot of natural features on their land – such as rock piles and trees – you have a few options. You can drill and cement permanent electrical fencing eyelets into rock, and these will provide a permanent fixings.
In areas where there’s lots of rocks and trees you can use bailing twine to tie your fencing in place. Just make sure you check where you’ve tied your fence regularly as bailer twine rots and wears quickly. So be prepared to replace it when the need arises.
Make sure your fence has a kick
Grass and other vegetation can sap the effectiveness of any electric fence. Any bits of grass, tree branches, bits of wood, touching the fence will cause it to short. Although grass and wood are poor conductors, they will each leach a small amount of current every time they touch your wire.
Every blade of grass and twig touching your fence can quickly add up to a serious electrical drain. Not only does this deplete the ‘shock’ of your fence, but it’s wasted energy and therefore wasted money. This can really add up on larger fencing systems that are designed to cover many acres.
Trim back any grass, twigs and tree branches that run along the path of your fence. And regularly inspect it to make sure nothing is touching and shorting it.
Dry and wet ground will also determine how much of shock your fence has. The wetter your ground the stronger the shock. Ground condition is only really is a problem for those who are setting up an electric fencing system in very dry areas.
It’s not uncommon for pig farmers in dry arid areas to run an additional earth wire along the same path as the fence. This earth wire is either laid flat on the ground or buried beneath. This extra wire is connected to the energizer earth, or another good quality electrical earth.
Pig Electric Fencing Charges and Voltages
Here’s a rough guide on what you should use:
- At the minimum use an energizer that can produce a charges of 2.5 joules, but more is better.
- A 6 joule charge is ideal. This will keep in the most determined of escapee pigs.
- You might need multiple energizers if you are planning to cover a large amount of ground.
- If you fencing a large amount of land (20 acre or more) use a 15 joule energizer for every 20-30 acres. Therefore 70 acres would require 3X15 joule energizers.
Charging Your Hog Fencing
There are three basic options when it comes to powering your energizer and supplying power to your fence. They are:
- Powered by a battery
- Mains power
- Solar charger + battery
In a portable fencing systems, a battery will be used to power the energizer. Car batteries are okay for this task, but they will need regular charging to keep the fence working. The older and cheaper the car battery, the quicker the charge will deplete – requiring more frequent charging.
A deep cycle battery is the best type of battery to use with electrical fencing. These batteries are designed to power electrical appliances in motor homes and caravans. They will hold their charge better, and they will last longer – the overall life of the battery is much greater when compared with a car battery. If you are looking to buy a battery specifically for your fencing setup, choose a deep cycle battery.
You can use a solar charger to keep your fence and battery charged. However; these devices are not perfect. Like anything solar they are dependent on the sun in your area. Also, they might not provide sufficient charge if you plan to use them on a large electrical fencing system.
If you choose to go down the solar charger route, ensure you do your research into the charging units. Some are better than others. Check out review on Amazon, or try searching a few farming forums and to see what other livestock owners are using.
If you do install a solar unit, monitor its charging capabilities at the start. Solar chargers are not ‘set it and forget it’ device. Your battery still runs the risk of becoming flat due to poor light, your solar charger under performing , or battery failure.
Feeding your energizer from the mains is one option. Obviously you need to step down your main electricity to the input on your energizer – usually a 12 volt input. Feeding your fence via this method is great as it’s often more reliable when compared with battery setups.
It’s also a great way to power big fencing systems, as there should always be sufficient charge to keep multiple energizers working.
Electric Fence Maintenance
Check any fencing your have regularly. You can buy special devices for this task, or use something like a volt meter to measure the current and charge.
For big electrical fencing systems it can worth purchasing a directional finder to help you diagnose where your short circuits are occurring in your fencing.
Also, check grass and vegetation near your fence and trim if necessary.
If you installing a large fencing system, or live somewhere with frequent storms; it might be prudent to install lightening protection and surge protection. If you have your fencing hooked up to your houses/barn/farms electric supply then I strongly consider this as an option. If you don’t add a safety system like this, and lightening strike near your fencing, you run the risk of blowing your farms electrics.
Some people claim electro-netting is great for pigs. However; this type of fencing is not without drawbacks. Electric current depletes as the surface area increases. Electro-netting has a larger surface area when compared with single strand electrical wire; therefore your fence will provide less of a shock.
And the charge is often strongest where the energizer connects, and weaker around the edges of the fence. This can create weak points in your fencing. Additionally, electro netting is far more expensive than single strand wire as well.
Electrical tape is also affected by a similar depletion in charge due to the surface area. This depletion in charge can quickly add up if a lot of electrical tape is used.
One complaint you hear about some energizers is that they send their electrical pulse too slow through the fence. These slow pulses give pigs time to try running or jumping through the fence. If you think this is happening to you, i recommend that you try a better battery, or replace your energizer with a solid state livestock energizer.
A solid state livestock energizer provides a constant electrical current through your fence. This means your fence is always on – there are no pulses sent every second or two. This gives your pigs less of a window to jump through your fence. This can be a good option for those dealing with troublesome porkers.
If your pigs are still getting out you may need to switch to a permanent fencing solution.
If you have a pig that continually escapes and cannot be trained; move him, sell him or eat him. They will be a bad influence on the other pigs; teaching them how to escape.
Make sure to fulfil your pigs needs. Your pigs might be escaping because they are bored, hungry, or lonely. If you ensure your pigs are happy there will be less chance of them wanting to escape.
And don’t forget the training. It’s probably one the best things you can do to make your electrical pig fencing efficient.