Calculating the Materials for a High Tensile Electric Fence

You can call it a material list, bid sheet, or whatever you want to call it. But when you build any fence you will need a guideline that tells you what materials you will need to begin the construction of your project. Having sold electric fencing for a number of years I have seen all forms of material lists. Some have been on napkins from the local café or kitchen table, torn pieces of cardboard and some have been elaborate excel spreadsheets with footnotes, attachments and drawings. It doesn’t really matter, the bottom line is that you cover all the bases and know what your actual costs will be – before you start buying or building.

If you are a smart shopper you may get prices from numerous suppliers, shop on-line, or best yet – if you have a local farm supply store that treats you fair you may turn your list over to them and allow them to price your project out. The purpose of this article will be to help you cover all the bases in putting together your shopping list for an electric fence system, so that you will have everything that you need before you start.

Below is a list of the basic components that you will need to start with. This is not an inclusive list and does not include any gadgets. It‘s just the basic items and in general – all you need.

Corner Posts Vertical post for ends and corners
Brace posts Vertical post to brace corner or end posts
Braces Horizontal cross brace for corner or end posts
Line bosses In-line intermediate wood posts for ridges, dips & transitions
Line posts Line posts for supporting and maintaining wire spacings
Wire 12.5 gauge high tensile wire  (usually 4000′ coils)
End Strain Insulators At the end each wire to pull wire to insulate from posts.
Wire Tensioners To tension the high tensile wire
Crimp Sleeves For splicing and connecting high tensile wire
Wire Taps For making connections of jumper wires and lead outs
Insulated Wire For jumper wires and underground use
Energizer To power your system
Ground Rods /clamps To ground your energizer and hook it up

Chart 1 (above)

From this list above you can decide on the types and diameters of posts that you prefer to use.  There are several choices, so now is the time to make those decisions. I personally, recommend using a good quality wood post for ends, corners and line bosses. They are readily available to purchase or you may be able to harvest them from your own land. I do discourage using steel posts in your electric fence system. Although it is an option and some people actually like working with it – steel is your enemy with electric fencing and I highly recommend keeping it out of your system.

Below is a list that I put together, based on average nationwide prices as of this date (but they will vary greatly, regionally). When I estimate a fence project I prefer to think of each item as I will be installing it. I.e.: you will first put in your end and corner posts; you will stretch a guide wire, put in your brace post, then your line bosses and any gate posts. You will install your end insulators, line posts and then begin stretching wire. So, this list is somewhat in chronological order of how you will install your materials. It’s pretty easy to remember as you plan it out in your mind, while putting it on paper.

For this example: I am fencing a 40 acre square pasture (so it is ¼ mile square or 4 legs of 1320’ each, or 1 mile of fence). There would be 2 gates on opposite corners. There is a ridge going across it, so I used 2 line bosses there. There will be 5 strands of 12.5 gauge high tensile wire. This is a perimeter fence, so the line post spacings I used would be around 30’ apart (Note: if this were an interior fence you could easily stretch this line post spacing out to 50 to 75 feet).  I am using standard “H” bracing on the corners, but you could also use a floating brace to save a few dollars and installation time without sacrificing quality.

Item Description Qty Each Total
Corner Posts 6″ x 8′ treated wood post 6 $15.00 $90.00
Brace posts 6″ x 8′ treated wood post 7 $15.00 $105.00
Braces 4″ x 8′ treated wood 7 $8.00 $56.00
Line bosses 6″ x 8′ treated wood post 2 $15.00 $30.00
Line posts PasturePro 1-1/4″ x 66″ w cotter pin 176 $7.00 $1,232.00
Wire, high tensile 4000′ coils of 12.5 gauge 7 $100.00 $700.00
End Insulators End insulators 40 $1.00 $40.00
Insulators for brace posts and line bosses 60 $0.30 $18.00
Wire Tensioners one for each run of wire 20 $2.50 $50.00
Crimp Sleeves for connections bottle of 100 1 $15.00 $15.00
Wire Taps for connecting jumper wires, etc 10 $1.00 $10.00
Insulated Wire one coil of 100′ 100 $0.25 $25.00
Energizer 1 joule fence charger 1 $150.00 $150.00
Ground Rods 6′ galvanized rods with clamps 2 $11.00 $22.00
Total materials (gates not included) $2,543.00

Chart 2  (above)

As you will see in the chart below, one of your biggest costs in an electric fence system (or any fence system, for that matter) will be your line posts. You will consume many. In most cases they will attribute to nearly ½ of your fence material costs. With electric fencing, they will also be a major source of potential problems and shorts. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about your choice here. You may be able to save a few dollars, but you may also be creating some potential problems. An insulated post that will stay in the ground, offer some flexibility and last a long time will well be worth your consideration. An insulated post will also drastically cut down on the amount of maintenance that will be required for the next 30+ years.

Item Percentage of Total Cost Cost per foot of fence
Corner Posts 3.5% $0.110
Brace posts 4.1% $0.010
Braces 2.2% $0.010
Line bosses 1.1% $0.010
Line posts 48.4% $0.233
Wire, high tensile 27.5% $0.132
End Insulators 1.6% $0.007
Insulators 0.7% $0.003
Wire Tensioners 2.0% $0.009
Crimp Sleeves 0.6% $0.002
Wire Taps 0.4% $0.001
Insulated Wire 1.0% $0.004
Energizer 5.9% $0.028
Ground Rods 0.8% $0.003
Material Cost per foot $0.48

Chart 3

As you can see in the chart below, much of your actual material costs (about 75%) will be consumed in line posts and wire. So they should, therefore, be a prime consideration for you in planning this system. We will assume that this is a permanent fence that will be used for a long time. You should want to use material here that will last and not create maintenance or replacement problems.

In some parts of the country, some people would be inclined to use steel t-posts for their line posts. And that can be done, however you will probably not really save much money in this decision and you will definitely have more upkeep and maintenance for the next 30+ years. At present I think a 6’ steel t-post will cost from $4.50 to $5.00 depending on the size of it and quality. Five insulators for that post will cost around $1.50 per post, so you are getting pretty close to the price of an insulated post. I would highly suggest the insulated line post. I am suggesting the PasturePro post, but a 1” diameter fiberglass or sucker rod (if you can find them) would suffice as well and probably cost about the same.

I hope that this helps you in estimating and planning your electric fence system. Yes, there are many variables, and there are tons of additional “gadgets” that you can hang on this fence. There may also be some special tools that you might need to purchase. However, a high tensile fence such as this will control any type of livestock as well as offer some predator control. It will also last you a very long time. I also realize that for the seasoned veteran this may be pretty elementary – however there are many people that are just discovering the beauty of high tensile electric fencing.

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About Gary Duncan

Gary has been active in the fence business for over 15 years. He also raises Highland cattle in a management intensive grazing system and was the first person to market the PasturePro post back in 2005. He enjoys discussing all things grazing and is the main contributor to the blog.
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4 Responses to Calculating the Materials for a High Tensile Electric Fence

  1. avatar Ryan says:

    Hi Gary, this really has nothing to do with this post, but I was hoping to pick your brain. I need to install a fence in an area with very shallow soil, only a few inches in spots. The main problem is the anchor posts. I was thinking of drilling into the bedrock and putting rebar into the holes, then forming a concrete post. Ever done this? How deep do you think the holes for the rebar would need to be?

    • avatar Gary Duncan says:

      Thats OK Ryan…..we have a webmaster that I just love to “irritate the dickens out of.” Not really, he is a genuine nice guy – so he may move this post to where-ever he wishes.
      Anyway, I think your concept is good. If it is good solid bedrock, I would think that about 24″ would be sufficient, if you can get the right size and length of bit to drill it with. And I might suggest a HD commercial rebar in 3/4″ or 1″ diameter.
      You sound like a young man, so if you did this right, it will probably last the rest of you life. Another thing you could do is drill these at an angle, then bend them upright at ground level. This would give you more of a tripod base into the bedrock. You could also drill these holes larger than the steel rod – mix up some RockTite or quick set concrete, to a consistancy that would flow well and fill in around them.
      Years ago a young man asked me about pouring concrete corners. I visited his farm and he explained his idea. Sounded quite substantial. He didnt have the rock to deal with, but wanted a corner to last virtually forever. He planned to auger down, install rebar, use a 10″ plastic pipe for a form then pour it full of concrete. He was hopeful that he would have an insulated plastic corner. He also had a very accessable farm and could drive a concrete truck over it.
      This could turn into an article….feel free to call me sometime and we can talk more about it on the phone. We have a new toll free number at 800.563.6771 and you should be able to get me from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Central US time.
      I’d love to talk more about this……and if you’de care to be a guinea pig I have a couple other ideas as well !

  2. avatar craig harris says:

    does it matter what shape a 40 acre field is when figuring how much fencing it takes to put a fence around it.

    • avatar Gary Duncan says:

      Hi Craig,
      Yes, shape does matter.
      A square 40 acres will have four equal sides of 1320′ or 1/4 mile each, so the total length of the perimeter would be 5,280′ or one mile.
      However if it were narrow and long, it would have more length of perimeter.
      Your country recorders office may have property dimensions on file. Or, your local Soil & Water Office or the NRCS Office.
      I use a simple measuring wheel that I use to walk off pasture dimensions, for my own use.

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