In my travels I suppose I’ve seen literally hundreds of different ways to build a farm fence. Some of them have cost someone an arm and a leg and some have had economy in mind. Some will last a lifetime and some won’t last through the first storm. Some will contain the thundering herd and some will not. One thing is certain regarding containing livestock – if you give them opportunity to lean through the fence and taste the green grass on the other side, they will eventually wear down even the best of fences.
For the physical barrier to work effectively it must be maintained in a tight and sound condition so that no animal can penetrate it. The second, psychological, fence must convey a sense of respect to the animal so that they have no desire to even touch it. The memory of an electric shock (and the pain associated with it) is etched into their minds.
If you compare the cost to construct either of these types of fences the psychological (electric) fence will always be a much more economical fence to build. It is normally easier to build, it will last much longer and if you truthfully analyze the maintenance involved over its lifetime – it will cost you much less money to maintain. If you bite the bullet and install a good quality fence charger along with a short training session with your animals, then I feel that this type of fence is the preferred farm fence.
Because the traditional fence mind thinks more along the lines of a physical barrier, it is often hard for a beginner with electric fencing to make the right choices in posts. First off, because of the nature of high tensile wire, you can get by with much wider line post spacing.
This means that you can go with 25 to 30 foot (or more) spacings rather than the 10 or 12 feet, that is required for barbed or woven wire. This is a concept that is hard to swallow for someone new to high tensile electric fencing.
I never miss an opportunity to mention that with electric fencing, steel is your enemy. That is why I generally recommend using either an insulated post or a wood post with quality insulators. What we often forget to mention, however, is that the best fence you can build may have a combination of wood posts and self-insulated posts.
Actually, some New Zealanders turned me on to this concept many years ago. In this case the fences they were building utilized a wood post about every 200 to 300 feet, and then they used PasturePro posts as line posts between them.
The spacing of your wood posts can vary and will give you anywhere from a 5:1 to a 10:1 ratio. Additionally some fence builders will move those wood posts in to around 150 feet and simply use droppers in between posts for multi-wire fences rather than put them in the ground.
The result you get from this arrangement is that it is a very strong and effective fence, but it is also very easy to build. Possibly, what this concept accomplishes most of all is the peace of mind that comes from seeing those wood posts there. Although, they may not be completely necessary, they can dispel some doubt and satisfy the traditional concerns for the newcomer to electric fencing.
A good quality wood post will likely cost more than a non-conductive composite post and there will be more labor involved to plant it into the ground, but if it makes you feel better – consider it. Also, a wood post is needed for stability on curves, angles, dips and hills etc.
So even though the price and labor might be greater, wood posts can be necessary and for the most part are needed for a better overall fence when building on uneven terrain. Just make sure you use a good quality insulator on the wood post.
In summary, by using a combination of wood posts and composite posts you will get a very high quality fence that is substantially stronger and you will probably not have much maintenance to perform on it. This fence should last a very long time.