We had a farm tour this past Saturday at Greenway Farm. The idea was for folks to meet Jesse Green and to see our new pasture set up for how we are raising the pigs. It was a huge hit. There must have been 100 people there. I didn't even get a chance to say hello to everyone who came. Another plan for the tour had been for those interested in raising pigs themselves to get an inside look at the fencing system that I have set up. Well, between walking, talking, meeting and greeting I never even had a chance to gather a group together that really wanted to see the fencing system up close. So, I thought I would give an overview of the system on our new blog.
Electric fencing is a very flexible and comparably inexpensive way to contain pigs on pasture and in wooded areas. The basics of pigs and electric fence are:
1. Train them to electric fence in a contained area. Most pigs natural inclination is to charge through the first time they are shocked.
2. Make their first encounter with the fence memorable. The general rule is that the fence should be reading at least 4000 volts on the fence tester. With pigs, I like the fence to be at full power. (Don't pay any attention to the mile rating of fence energizers. Joules is the rating that counts).
3. Hi tensile wire and poly wire are both effective and I find determining which to use depends on the particular application.
4. With pigs from weaning size to 100lbs or so I prefer to use two wires. One at snout height and one at ear height. Once they are larger, one wire seems to work fine.
5. Don't skimp on grounding rods. When the system is not working correctly the ground system is often to blame. With my three joule charger in a 10 acre field I am using 3 eight foot long galvanized ground rods spaced about 8' apart. The soil in this field holds a lot of water. In well drained soil and sand I would use more rods. I leave my ground rods out of the ground about 18" to make it easier to pull them up if needed and cap the top with an old tennis ball to prevent injury in case someone falls on them. They are connected in series using hi tensile wire and automotive hose clamps. Insulated wire would be preferable to prevent corrosion but I move my system fairly often and tensile wire is cheap to replace.
I use different products, components and techniques for different age pigs but the primary system for growing sized pigs and breeding size hogs consists of our 3 joule Speedrite Fence Energizer, wooden corner posts, steel T-post line posts, 14 gauge high tensile wire, t-post insulators and plastic and ceramic corner post insulators. This is what we've used for some time. My fence energizer can either be plugged in to a wall outlet or connected to a 12v battery. The pig herd at Greenway Farm is not located anywhere near AC power so I chose to create a solar system for it. I placed a 12v deep cycle battery from the auto parts store with the fence energizer in a plastic storage tote. The fence energizer comes with alligator clips to attach to the the battery posts but I refitted it with eye connectors that I could bolt on the battery posts. This set up runs the fence energizer.
According to the fencer's manufacturer, the deep cycle battery will power this charger for about two weeks before the battery reaches half power. Going below half power on a deep cycle battery is supposed to be very bad for the life of the battery. I didn't want to add charging the battery to my list of chores and considering I would need a 2nd battery to power the fence while charging the other, I chose to create a solar system to maintain the battery's power. The cost of the solar system was comparable to the price of a 2nd battery. Here's what I used: a 50 watt panel. Solar panels come with special electrical connectors on the output wire ends. I was not familiar with them or where to find such connectors locally so I cut them off and used standard automotive connectors. You cannot directly connect a solar panel to the battery, as the panel will overcharge the battery. You need an inline charge controller. I initially used this one, but it failed and I switched to this one which is a sealed unit and much more simple. I also added this very inexpensive digital volt meter which stays connected to the battery and will let you know the battery's status at a glance. My solar panel just lays on top of the plastic tote, but I left enough wire slack so that I could set it on the side to angle towards the sun if necessary.