One victim of the severe winter weather could be the condition of electric fencing so it will pay to invest time in checking fences are working correctly before turnout.

It’s the phone call every livestock farmer dreads – the news that animals have got out. You are now faced with spending time finding them and getting them back in and repairing the fence. Then there is the potential damage to crops where they have been trampling. Finally, there is the need to rebuild relationships with neighbours whose fields or gardens have been damaged.

“Animals breaking through fences can be a real issue,” comments Mark Oliver UK sales manager with Gallagher Europe.

“Increasingly there is the risk of Health and Safety issues and potential prosecutions, so it makes sense to do everything possible to ensure all fencing is fit for purpose

“This will be especially important this spring with electric fencing as the high winds and heavy rainfall seen over the winter can cause a number of problems which will reduce the effectiveness of fences.”

He says that it is likely that broken branches and fallen trees could break the fence or cause a fault leading to loss of power. In addition, it is possible posts will have broken or worked loose leading to less tension in the fence. In extreme circumstances, it is possible the earth may have been compromised. To ensure there are no problems with fencing and that it will provide an effective barrier, he advises carrying out a full check of the fence.

“Every spring we gets calls from farmers saying the energiser isn’t working and so the fence is ineffective. More often than not, the energiser will be fine but there is a problem elsewhere in the fence.

“The good news is that many faults are easily fixed and if you follow a logical approach to checking the fence it will be possible to quickly identify and rectify any issues.

“Our Gallagher fence check breaks down into four main areas and if carried out methodically can ensure the fences will be working effectively at turnout.”

Stage 1 Check your energiser

Mr Oliver says the starting point is to ensure the energiser is working correctly by carrying out a voltage check using a digital voltmeter or a fault finder.

“Simply disconnect the fence from the energiser and turn the energiser on. Place the contact plate of the fault finder on the fence output and the fault finder earth pin on the earthing point on the energiser.

“If the voltage reading is equal to or higher than 6000V then the energiser is working effectively and you can move on to check the rest of the fence. If it is less than 6000V then there is a problem with the energiser which needs fixing before you can complete the fence check.”

Once the fence has been reconnected to the working energiser move on to the next stage.

Stage 2 Check the fence voltage

It is important to check the voltage at the end of the fence, again using a fault finder or voltmeter. If the reading is zero, then the fence will be broken somewhere along its length.

“There will be a degree of voltage loss along the length of the fence and the key figure is a reduction of more than 1500V. If the difference between the end of the fence and the energiser is less than 1500V, then the fence is working correctly and is adequately earthed.

“If, however, the difference is more than 1500V then there is a fault with either the fence or the earth, so both need checking.”

Stage 3 Physically check the whole fence

“At this stage you need to travel the entire length of the fence to check the condition of posts and wire. Before setting out, make sure you have a supply of all the parts you might need such as replacement wire and insulators, as well as the equipment needed to reset posts and some form of wire tensioner.”

Remove any debris which might cause the fence to short out such as branches. Trim back any undergrowth that is touching the wire. If the wire has gone slack, re-tighten it to the correct tension, but not over-tight. If the wire has broken, reconnect it using a suitable connector.

“Just knotting the wire may not provide an adequate reconnection of the circuit. We would always advise using a proper connector to ensure an effective and durable repair and reduce the risk of the repair failing.”

As well as checking the wire, he advises paying particular attention to the posts, replacing any that are broken and making sure all posts are upright and firmly footed in the ground.

He says damaged insulators on posts are a common cause of lost power and advises replacing all damaged insulators.

“Once you have examined the full length of the fence and repaired as required, go back to the end and recheck the voltage. If the voltage drop is still more than 1500V then there is a fault with the earth which needs checking but we would advise checking the earth periodically as best practice.”

Stage 4 Check the earth

To check the effectiveness of the earth, Mr Oliver explains that you have to actually create a fault. To do this an iron post needs to be placed in contact with the fence approximately 100m from the earthing point.

“Take a voltage reading now as you need to make sure the voltage has dropped to less than 1000V. If it is still above 1000V simply put more iron posts across the fence until you have less than 1000V.

“Then measure the voltage at the earth point by placing the voltmeter or fault finder on the earth stake. If the measurement on the earth stake is less than 300V then your earthing is adequate. If the reading is more than 300V then the earth is not effective enough and you need to add more earth stakes until it drops below 300V.

“I would also advise checking the earth periodically through the season too as the effectiveness can be affected by how dry the ground is. Wet or damp ground is a more effective conductor than dry ground.

“Time spent checking the effectiveness of electric fencing in the next few weeks will mean you can turn stock out with confidence that your animals will stay where you want them and give peace of mind throughout the grazing season,” Mr Oliver concludes.

To watch a video on carrying out the Gallagher Fence Check go to