It’s always interesting to see the different methods farmers come up with building electric fence gates. The choice for materials and design is large and of course it matters what kind of livestock is being contained in determining number of wires etc. Sheep and goats present large challenges in coming up with a gate that’s simple to pass through but will still keep the girls from getting through. One we used and I’ve seen used by others- takes PVC pipe and several rows of high tensile wire to make a multi wire gate. We disliked these–always wanting to tangle and the PVC would get brittle and break over time. The best sheep gates I’ve seen were made by Bruce Shanks and used coated fiberglass rod on the ends connecting a section of electrified portable sheep net for the gate. It was easy to open and close and definitely worked to keep the sheep in the paddock.
Here are some thoughts on design and a list of the construction materials we’ve used over the years in building gates.
Using gates to power the fence- In other words when you open the gate the power on one side is lost. We now like the entire fence to be on all of the time and if you use gates as switches it means all your gates need to be hooked up all the time. Not only that, but the conductivity is not nearly as good with a gate handle as when you use a split bolt or crimping sleeve to make connections.
We now go underground or overhead to make the connections from one side of a gate to another. If you decide to use a gate to power the fence please make sure you connect it so the gate is not hot when you open it. People with a hot gate in their hand hold it like they have a live snapping turtle hooked to the handle, and with good reason, as both can bite pretty hard. Another reason to make sure the gate is dead when you unhook is to avoid leaving a live gate on the ground as it can kill box turtles coming in contact with the wire. They can’t move fast enough to get away from the shock and it gives them a pretty sad death.
12.5 gauge high tensile wire- We used a lot of this wire for our gates but found ATV riders and cattle often didn’t see it well. It also sprung back and often tangled when laid on the ground. At a time when all our gates were made with high tensile wire and plastic gate handles we took a two day trip. One of our rules when we go anywhere all day is to close all the gates on the farm including the lanes to ensure there is no way the cows can get out. We left the cows with plenty of pasture but our elderly friend worried about the cows and decided to check them while we were gone. We appreciated his thoughtfulness when we got back and then began repairing all the wire gates he had driven right through without knowing when he drove his truck to the far back side of the farm where the cattle were pastured!
Spring gates- We like these, but like the 12.5 gauge wire they are easy to miss when driving through on an ATV. One company paints their spring gates white, which should make them more visible.
Bungy gates-Bungy is similar to using 1/4″ rope but it’s elastic and electrified. We really liked it when it first came out but have found over the years that it has a short life span and is relatively expensive. Lots of difference in quality, but difficult to know the quality until you have had it up a year or so.
Rope gates- This is the gate material of choice for our one wire gates. We use electrified 1/4″ rope with a plastic handle and have found these gates to last a long time and are easily seen by someone on an ATV and the cattle. I described how we build these simple gates in a previous blog.
Underground wire- We use conduit and double insulated 12.5 wire for all our undergrounds. Since we make our gates 20-40′ wide we want to make sure that if somehow the wire fails we can pull it out and insert a new wire without having to dig it up. We use 1″ HDPE pipe for conduit and seal the ends with silicone so no water gets in the pipe. While it’s rare for the insulated wire to fail, we have had it happen a couple of times-once from a lightning strike- and adding the conduit ensures a rock doesn’t puncture the coating of the wire.