There are several options for fencing cattle. Depending on the breed of cattle,
the number of fence wires can vary from one to six.
Note: A minimum of 4,000 - 5,000 volts on the fence line is required to keep out predators.
Dairy Cattle - Dairy cows are among the easiest animals
to contain with electric fences because they are relatively docile and are used
to daily human contact. Dairy cattle being strip grazed can usually be contained
with a single conductor of poly wire or 12mm poly tape, powered by an energiser
of around 0.25 Joules or less provided the voltage on the fence is around 2,000
Beef Cattle - To safely contain most beef cattle, you
need an energiser that delivers a minimum of 2,000 - 3,000 volts on the fence line.
Voltage levels are impacted by vegetation on the fence line, length of fence and
type of wire.
Bulls - If normally kept segregated for breeding purposes,
bulls or other aggressive livestock may become highly motivated to escape confinement,
especially when nearby cows are in heat. To contain bulls, maintain 3,000 - 4,000
volts on the fence line with an energiser that has a minimum of 1.5 Joules of stored
energy. Four to five wires are best. For more aggressive animals, you want the electrified
fence to deliver a more intense shock to discourage them from going near the fence
again so higher joules would be desirable on long fences.
Most cattle are fattened on grass aged between a few months and up to 2 years and
are usually reasonably docile so 3 wires would probably suit. The wire spacing depends
on the breed / size of the cattle but as a guide, on a permanent / boundary fence,
the wires should be spaced at knee height, lower chest and upper chest heights.
Wire Spacing Guide
Tip: A fence enclosing both cows and calves requires an electrified wire at the
nose-level height of each.
If it is a temporary subdivision within a permanent boundary, total security may
not be an important issue, therefore, poly wire or tape on plastic moveable posts
may be best.
Strip fencing for dairy cows is normally carried out using a portable energiser,
(consider 9v power for ease of daily moving) poly wire or tape and plastic posts
or metal pigtail posts. Strip grazing fences are usually adequate with a single
conductive wire about 90 – 100cms (3 ft) or so above the ground. The use of reels
for rewinding the poly wire makes moving the fence much more efficient.
Assuming no secondary barrier such as a hedge or wall, a permanent boundary fence
should be constructed of timber posts, high tensile wire and ideally a mains powered
Are the cattle used to electric fencing within a limited grazing area? If not, care
should be taken to ensure they are trained to respect the fence by allowing them
to touch the conductor and receive a severe shock. All farm and domesticated animals
need initial “training” to respect the fence, preferably under supervision, to ensure
they learn where the shock comes from so they stay away. A high level of shock must
be received initially to create the psychological “fear” imprint to ensure they
quickly learn to respect the fence.
Tip - Wire Spacing for
(pdf - 248 kb)
As a very general guide, the energiser powering a permanent fence should have a
stored energy of not less than 0.5 joules for cattle and typically an additional
0.5 joules per km of fence length when using multi strand 2.5 mm high tensile wire.
Rutland’s Electric Shepherd energisers are capable of maintaining these voltage
levels. However, all energisers produce approximately the same voltage when not connected
to a fence and it is the strength of the shock, measured in joules, which enables
very long fences to be constructed.
Where possible, use a mains powered energiser. Running costs are low, rarely more
than £20 p.a. even with largest energisers, and no batteries to recharge or go flat.
When moving a temporary fence on a daily basis, consider a 9-volt battery energiser.
These are lightweight, and incorporate the non rechargeable battery within the energiser
Battery and solar powered energisers are ideal for permanent and semi-permanent
remote installations where mains power is not available.