Meriel Younger of Electric Fencing Direct offers a beginner’s guide to securing your first pig pen with an electric fence
Electrical fencing is an easy way to keep pigs contained, but only if it’s implemented and managed properly. One of our jobs at electricfencing.co.uk is to devise kets for people just starting out with electric fencing and livestock. As far as beginners are concerned, good planning is the key, so here are some of the key points which I think that all novice keepers should think about when setting up a system for their first pigs.
Pigs are smart, strong and fast, and so may need a slightly different approach to other livestock when trying to contain them with electric fencing. Pigs need to be trained to respect the electric fence, and the sooner this is done, the better.
It is best to train pigs when they are weaners, and to do so in a controlled environment. This could be a permanent pen with a line of electric fencing running around the inside of the perimeter, or a smaller one that’s set up specifically for the purpose. This allows the weaners to touch the fence, learn to respect the fence and do so while they are contained in a safe environment. By and large, they learn very quickly and, having touched it two or three times, they won’t go near it again.
How much do I need
Before you start ordering electric fencing, go out and measure the area you want to fence off. Take note of the ground conditions, too. Is it undulating? Is it very exposed? Is it very stony?
Pace out the fence and take your measurements with care. Then, with all this knowledge, it’s easy to work out which energiser you need to power the fence, how many posts will be necessary and the total length of wire required.
Then you’ll have to decide whether you’ll be creating a permanent pen or a temporary one. A big factor in this can be the amount of land you have to play with. When space is tight then a permanent enclosure can make more sense, but, if you have more land and can see yourself needing to move the pigs around, then a temporary set-up will probably make more sense. Other obvious factors that influence this decision include the budget available, specific requirements and the land type.
A permanent enclosure consists of a line system and would most likely be run through insulators on wooden or metal posts. Your fencing would be in a fixed position. Alternatively, a temporary set-up could work with the fencing being held on a reel that’s movable from time to time, to give the pigs fresh pastures. Most likely, this set-up would consist of wooden corner posts, plastic posts and polywire/tape/rope.
Pigs are super-sensitive to electric fencing, but it is always advisable to power your energiser up (ie, purchase an energiser that is over-capable of powering your fence), then guard against the power-sapping effects of shorting somewhere on the fencing, particularly as pigs rootle and push earth about which often ends up touching the electric fence.
Once you have measured the area and decided how many lines you require (normally three), then you will know the distance of fencing required. Armed with this knowledge you can then pick an energiser, be it powered by a mains supply, battery or solar.
The choice between the three power options is dependent upon a number of factors. A mains-powered energiser will provide the most time-efficient way of running an electric fence. Plug your energiser into the mains (under cover) and run a cable out to your fence. Run a further cable from your energiser to your earth stake; it’s as simple as that. It’s an easy option, but not always possible due to location.
A 12V leisure battery – which is slow-release – is what’s required if you need the flexibility of a battery-operated fence (car batteries are ‘fast release’ so aren’t suitable because they lose charge too quickly). The energiser is connected to the battery which is positioned next to the fence and connected by a lead. However, it’s really important to check the fence regularly when the power supply is a battery. A drop in voltage might allow the pigs to escape and, if the charge in the battery is allowed to get too low, then it won’t be rechargeable and you’ll have to buy a new one.
Solar-powered energisers have improved greatly over the past couple of years. Some of them are now supplied with an interval, 12V battery, a solar panel and a mains charger (the battery may require a mains charge during the winter months). The solar panel converts light into power and trickle-feeds the battery. The energiser takes the power from the battery to your fence.
Finally, there are ‘combination’ energisers on the market that can work from mains or battery power. They come with an adaptor to be plugged into the mains, or can be operated by a battery. If you tend to move your pig enclosure around, then this type of energiser could be for you.
Of course, you may have a battery-operated system that would benefit from the trickle-charge performance of a solar panel, and this is easily done, too. All you need to do is buy a solar panel and connect it to your 12V battery, then connect your energiser to the battery, too!
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