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Protecting our precious places

Electric fences

By Philip Lissaman

Despite the overwhelming distrust of electric fences by many people who are involved with the protection of forest, they can have a place and are used very successfully by some covenant owners.

Electric fences can be particularly effective on dairy farms. However, the Trust's experience is that, where a less-than-enthusiastic subsequent owner comes along, the covenant fence may not get attention or necessary maintenance.

Maintenance and stock training are the keys to success: if either of these is missing, problems with stock entry will occur.


Cattle can keep vegetation off electric fencesThe maintenance programme needs to include not just keeping the fence wires, posts and connections in good condition, but also regularly checking the voltage along the fence and keeping vegetation off the wires by spraying or slashing.

The last of these is vital, as overgrown wires mean short-outs. This maintenance is the expensive 'extra' to an otherwise 'cheap' fence.

Stock training

An electric fence is unlikely to be successful with older animals that have never experienced one before and are used to pressuring fences.

Introduce stock to electric fencing when they're young and they'll soon learn a healthy respect for all fences. 

Fewer wires (e.g. 2-3) allow stock to trim the vegetation through the fence, thus reducing shorting out problems.As the sketch displays, hungry but well-trained cattle can do a good job of keeping vegetation off electric fences.

Open SpaceTM Magazine No.53, December 2001 © QEII National Trust

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