A Cowboy’s Faith: Hot wire must work

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Just touch it and find out if the fence is working.”

Few young people working around livestock have not been encouraged to check the power on an electric fence. Once they have felt the jolt it’s a lifetime lesson learned that generally brings laughter from the knowing tempter.

Electric fences are a quick inexpensive method to pen livestock in a certain area. However, with the convenience generally come many problems.

First and most importantly “is the smooth wire hot?” For electric fence to be effective it must have power. That charge can be from an electrical outlet, or most common on farms and ranches, a truck battery.

A small gadget is available and used by most stockmen to check if the fence is working. A light flashes when there’s power to sting anything that touches the wire.

Now there are a few old timers possibly even some young bucks that will readily touch the wire to verify power flow.

Perhaps they’re trying to prove their manliness or really just aren’t that affected by the harmless electrical tickle. It really isn’t that much of a charge, but most people are a bit afraid of the instant jolt.

In most situations livestock respect a hot wire and stay in the enclosure where they’re supposed to be. Uncertain if it’s from natural instinct or having been stung by the wire that keeps them away.

Sometimes certain animals cannot be retained by an electric fence, acting like they never feel the charge. However, if the electricity goes off or battery runs out of juice, livestock know immediately.

When livestock bounded by an electric fence gets out, it’s telltale sign the power’s off.

However, an issue can arise when stockmen want their animals to go through a disconnected electric fence gate.

They’re unaware it’s not hooked up and don’t want to be shocked, thinking the wire’s hot. It can become a major ordeal coaxing certain livestock through that gate hole.

Weeds grow best under electric fence and will often short it out when reaching height to touch the wire. Of course, hogs eagerly root dirt around the wire and are soon running around the yard.

All fencing requires maintenance, but hot wires are often more work than they’re worth.

Reminded of Job 19:8: “He hath fenced the way to be unpassable.”


030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a radio marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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