Is An Electric Fence Safe For My Animals?

Electric fences are a widely used method of containment in the UK often used by farmers, horse and livestock owners. As a method of containment they are superior to your standard post and wire fence due to a combination of cost, ease of maintenance and portability, but those unfamiliar with electric fences often think of Jurassic Park and picture young Timmy flying through the air, this encourages the perception that electric fences are dangerous, even life threatening; but are they? Well, there are so many animal lovers now using them that they must be safe, right?

In order to answer this, lets first take a look at how an electric fence works.

Your standard electric fence will be constructed from a number of posts, some conductive wire, rope or tape and a battery or mains power supply. The fence will be earthed at one end thus creating an open circuit. An electric current is pulsed around the fence passing through the electric wire, rope or tape until an animal touches it. By touching the wire an animal closes the open circuit. The current then passes through the animal and gets discharged into the ground, resulting in a mild shock for the animal in question.

So there’s the science, now what about the strength of that shock? Is it the kind of shock that could drop a cow? Well, the voltage of an electrical fence can be tempered to suit the size and strength of your animal. So for instance, it is safe to have a fence of 3,000 volts for a horse whereas anything up to 5,000 volts is safe for sheep or goats. Either way, the shock delivered to the animal is designed to teach that animal not to touch the fence again, not to harm it. The sensation delivered to the animal is unpleasant but not painful or overly powerful, farmers wouldn’t use an electric fence if it gave their sheep an afro every time they brushed against it. In fact, an animal is far more likely to hurt itself on a traditional post and wire fence than on an electrified fence.

Now for the other side of the story, yes its true that if the fence isn’t managed responsibly it could deliver a heftier charge, but a responsible and knowledgeable fence owner will not want to injure their animals any more than a human, and electric fence controllers are very easy to operate. In fact, the vast majority of electrified fences are even safe during rain storms. Strict safety standards also ensure that fences are safe to use.

So to summarise, electrical fences deliver a brief, safe shock that will not injure your animal, but will teach it to respect and avoid the fence thereby making it easier to contain. The same applies to any vermin that attempt to breach your fence in search of a meal. Most fences are built to strict safety standards and will not harm humans or animals.

For information’s sake, here is a list of guided voltages for different types of animals:

  • Horses: 3,000 Volts
  • Cattle: 3,000 Volts
  • Pigs: 3,000 Volts
  • Deer: 3,000 – 4,000 Volts
  • Sheep / Goats: 3,000 – 5,000 Volts
  • Bulls: 4,000 Volts