The anatomy of my (non-living) Hybrid fence

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High-tensile woven wire: 39” tall, 6” vertical stay spacing, 9 wires, with 2.5” spacing at bottom increasing to 7” spacing between the top wires. It has class III galvanizing, which is the best that one normally finds. It is 12.5 gauge high tensile wire top and bottom with 14.5 gauge high tensile wires in the middle. The vertical wires are soft. It only weighs about 100 lbs. per 330’ roll. It is Red-Brand. Bekaert, their major competitor, makes a similar fence, but I like the red wire on top! It costs about $100 for a roll of it, and it regularly goes on sale in the spring at Rural King (where I bought it) or Tractor Supply.

Barb wire: I used 4 barb high tensile class III galvanized double stranded barb-wire from Bekaert purchased at Tractor Supply. I run it on the ground. This prevents digging and provides a convenient guide wire when digging postholes. After digging the two terminal postholes and setting the terminal posts, I run this to guide the other holes for line posts. This way you can bring the hole right to the edge and it results in a perfectly straight fence. It also provides a lasting deterrent to any digging critter. I wouldn’t say it will prevent a coyote or skunk from going under the fence, but it increases the likelihood they will assault a more venerable fence (almost certainly your neighbors’). I only use barbwire on perimeter fencing and never on internal.

Electric wire: the premier design is really for sheep and goats, so they feature an offset wire on the grazed side about a foot off the ground; this keeps horned goats and sheep from rubbing on your fence and generally wrecking it. This wire is close to the ground, and once vegetation reaches it, and it will, the result will be a reduction in the shock power. It also virtually necessitates the use of either herbicide or a torch to keep the fence line clean, obviating the major advantage of woven wire (that it can get all weedy and still work). I only put electric wire on top because I only keep cattle in and coyotes out. It theoretically prevents climbing critters from going over (since the woven wire is grounded) and it definitely stops cattle from pushing or rubbing on the woven wire (they soon associate all wire as being a shock hazard, and will also associate all white rope as being a shock hazard if you use polywire). Most importantly, it “pipes” electricity all over your farm for convenient use of portable electric fencing, making the lugging of heavy batteries and delicate solar apparatus unnecessary. I use 14 gauge low-tensile electric fence wire–Red Brand’s. I have found that even with my relatively large post spacing that low-tensile doesn’t sag, and it is much easier to work with as well as less expensive. It also doesn’t need tensioning springs…its inherent elasticity seems to be adequate.

Posts: I use CCA treated Southern Yellow Pine “Agricultural use only” posts that are 8’ long and nominally 4-5” diameter ($7.50 ea) for line posts and 8” diameter ($15 ea) for anchor posts. I dig all my holes with a clam-shell type post hole digger (the old ones are better) and a spud bar (an iron bar used to pry out rocks). There is an art to digging holes. I’d like to say that there is a season for this (like there are many things), but there really isn’t. In the spring it is cool and the soil is soft, but water can be an issue. If your water tables are high, you will soon feel like you are digging a well. Soft, wet clay is heavy and sticks to your digger instead of falling off. Using your foot or a scraper of some sort to clean the digger gets tiresome. In the summer, the dirt falls right off and is lighter, but it is hot! Fall is probably the best time of year, all things considered, but if you don’t get the posts in, your holes will be filled up over the winter by frost heaving. Winter may be too cold and digging in frozen ground is something you only in an emergency.

If one has or knows someone with a wood lot filled with undesirable, small Eastern Red Cedar, Black Locust, or Osage Orange trees excellent fence posts can be made (and they would last longer and be considered “organic”). Usually local lumber mills will “peel” posts for $1-2 each so you could have them about as uniform in shape as purchased ones. The hard part here is if you don’t have them you are faced with working out a deal. I tried. Each time the person I was dealing with became the problem, and not the job. One wanted way too much money for the trees (making it more expensive than if I just bought ready-made posts), one basically never called me back, and another was so specific about the trees he wanted cut that I demanded he go out and tag them, which he never did, even after I handed him a can of spray paint. But it’s worth a try I suppose.

I used 24’ post spacing. I used H-braces on the corners and terminal ends, but I have now come to believe the diagonal Kiwi-style brace is almost as good and more economical. I use Kiwi-style braces for internal permanent fencing.

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Energizers. First, like small pistols and tires, buy an energizer of adequate quality. The relevant stats to consider are…

Price: for a decent new energizer expect to pay around $100. If it is much less than this, it is almost certainly junk.

Joules of output at a given resistance: don’t believe the marketing nonsense about “miles of fence.” This is completely arbitrary. Miles of what fence? Under what conditions? Out of what materials? The unit to compare with is joules at a given resistance. You want to see at least a one joule of maximum output and at least a half Joule at 5000 ohms of resistance. Some energizers have very impressive maximum outputs (20 joules) but may put out less than half a joule at 5000 ohms. It is important to have decent output at high resistance especially if chickens or sheep and goats are involved. These animals have high internal resistance and weigh little, so they make poor ground contact, and are not shocked very badly. Feathers and wool are also good insulators compared to the hair of cattle and equids or the skin of pigs. Being a good insulator is the same as saying it has high resistance. Also, when the ground gets dry resistance is increased. In droughty areas, a half-joule at high resistance is very important. My energizer, the 110v plug-in KUBE 4000 puts has only a relatively small maximum output of 2.3 joules, but it has an impressive 0.7 Joules at 5000 ohms. They are well made, very simple in construction, relatively small, and about $150 delivered. It has been running non-stop, under less than ideal conditions, for two years, without any fault whatsoever. I put a cheap surge protector left over from college between it and the outlet, but I don’t know if it is even doing anything. It makes me feel better, I suppose.

Frequency of pulse. A pulse every two seconds or faster is good. The KUBE cycles 45 times per minute.

Power consumption and type. There are three types. The most economical and reliable are 110v plug-in units. But of course you need 110v AC wherever you want to put the thing. There are DC powered ones that can run off batteries or solar panels. These are very expensive compared to plug in units for a given number of joules per unit of resistance, and the batteries and solar panel are additional, considerable expenses. Use them only if there is no other option. The third type is an AC/DC unit. Although these are about the same price as DC units, they offer the option of battery or solar operation when the power goes down if one is willing to purchase the battery and solar units for these incidences. I think a small 120v AC gasoline generator ($100-200) is probably a better investment. It is certainly more versatile. Not only could you keep your fence going, but you could keep your freezer/refrigerator, furnace fan, etc. going, too.

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