By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo
It is (or hopefully soon will be) time for the spring check-up on the ground system for your electric fence.
Start by turning on the energizer. A flashing light indicates that it is working properly.
Test the current on the fence (a voltmeter is a good investment for this purpose). If the reading is less than 2,500 volts, check the fence for drains on the system.
A number of things drain power. Fallen trees and branches can force wires to the ground. Broken insulators can mean a short-out. Electric wire may come in contact with a nearby barbed or page wire fence.
Steel posts can be a problem with cracked insulators and bare wire touching metal. Locations where wires have been joined are worth checking.
Lush wet growth on the fence line will drain current, especially after a heavy rain. As well, wires may have been cut over the winter by an enthusiastic snowmobiler and need to be spliced.
Check the ground system—this is the key to electric fencing. Lean several metal rods or bars against a charged wire about 100 yards from the ground rods.
This guides the current into the earth and back to the ground rods.
Place one hand on the ground and the other on the last ground rod. If the system is working, there shouldn’t be a shock.
For those who don’t take kindly to shocks, a voltmeter will do the same job. A reading over 200 volts is a good indication of a poor ground system.
In an earth ground system, current travels out from the energizer and returns to it. It moves from the energizer along the wire, passes through the animal touching it, and goes back to earth.
Here it moves through the moisture in the soil to the ground rod at the energizer.
Grounding must provide enough shock to control livestock. Not enough ground wires, poorly-joined wires, improper wire type, bad wire-to-ground rod connections, or rods too close together can cause a poor ground.
Use an insulated wire to connect the ground rods.
Ground rods should be at least six feet long where there is enough soil depth. Three rods about 10 feet apart forming a triangle work best.
If possible, drive the rods into the ground in an area that often is damp.
The fence ground should be at least 100 feet from a hydro ground to prevent stray voltage and the possibility of picking up a lightning strike from another source. Use a 12.5 gauge wire or heavier from rod-to-rod and from rod-to-energizer.
All connections should be clean and rust-free. Clamps must be tight. More ground rods can be added if there still is a reading on the voltmeter.
Most problems with an electric fence system are a result of inadequate grounding. With a voltmeter, it is simple to check regularly to avoid livestock escapes.
The livestock usually are checking the fence, too!