As the winter months approach, we begin to unpack our Carhartt clothing and the horse blankets. We often think about keeping things warm: ourselves, the barn, and our animals. How often do you think about keeping the fence warm by keeping the electricity flowing? Maintaining and preparing the fence for winter is a vital part of upkeep on the fence line.
Electric fences depend on a full circuit: The animal touches the fence, sends the electricity into the ground and at the end of the fence line the ground bed pulls electrons from the soil and pushes them back into the fence. The important step here is the cow is grounded when the fence is touched. There are many places that become vulnerable once the snow has hit the ground.
The Earth-Ground System
While the summer gives us the challenge of dry soil not being able to conduct electricity, the winter challenges us by freezing the moisture in the soil. Water is a great conductor of electricity, but as it freezes, ice is not a good conductor. To avoid a lack of electricity due to frozen soil, follow these tips and instructions:
· Be sure the ground rod bed is in an area where the snow is undisturbed. This could be by having the ground bed sheltered by trees or on the leeward side of a building. This minimizes the frost penetration into the ground in this area, keep the ground rods from becoming frozen.
· Be sure the ground rod bed consists of moist soil before the freezing temperature set. The dry winter air and lack of precipitation in the late fall months cause the soil to dry out, leaving dry soil in the ground bed. Dry soil is a terrible conductor of electricity.
Picking the properly sized energizer is not just a concern in the winter months, but does become a big issue during this time if not done properly. It is recommended to have 1 joule per 1 mile of fence line. If the energizer and fence combination is under this recommendation, there is a good chance the energizer will not have enough power to power the fence through dry soil, freezing temperatures, and piles of snow. It is important to check your fence voltage reading at the furthest points from the charger and in all temporary cross sections.
Connections and Emergency Wire Knots
We have all had those emergency situations where you go out in the morning to feed before work and the deer have run straight through the fence. A quick knot in the fence wire and a “I’ll fix that later”. Often times those “fix later” situations are forgotten. A quick knot in the wire with only a single point of contact between the two pieces is a high-resistance problem area. It may not seem like a problem when the weather conditions are ideal, but as winter approaches and resistivity of cold and dry weather sets in, the problem areas will decrease voltage dramatically. Before winter begins, be sure to replace all of the ties and connections with wire connectors and splicers.
Solar Energizers and Batteries
As we all know, the winter days do not produce as much sun as we like in the summer. This causes an issue for fence charges that rely on a solar panel and battery. It is recommended to position due south to maximize sunlight. The most important point to remember with solar panels is to sweep the snow and ice off daily! If this is not done, the sun will not get to the panel at all!
The shorter days will cause the battery to not completely recharge each day. If you have an energizer that has a “half-power” option and is capable of still producing enough volts on your fence line, it is a good idea to use it during these winter months. It is also important to keep a spare battery in case the current one needs replaced in the middle of winter.
Winter is hard enough without having to mend fences. Get around to those lines before the snow falls.