Let’s discuss “Politicians”:
The photo above is of a plastic fence insulator. Note that it’s meant for nailing to a wooden fencepost. Most insulators are meant to “snap on” to metal posts instead of wood. Buy the right kind. They come 25 to a bag (or more) with or without nails included. They’re cheap.
These sorts of insulators are dirt simple to install. All they really do is hold the wire away from the post so it doesn’t touch and short out. Wire, when strung with decent tension along a basically straight line, can more or less hold itself up. The “insulator” just maintains the position a little more precisely.
These kinds of insulators aren’t strong enough to hold wire at the ends where the tension is created. They just sit fat and lazy in the middle of a long run; keeping the wire from flopping around and not doing much else.
These insulators are garish yellow, look more important than they are, only support a wire doing basically what the wire wanted to do anyway, and they’re hollow. Therefore I call this kind of insulator “the Politician”. I have no idea what they’re really called.
Lets discuss “Marines”:
What you see there is a porcelain insulator that’s nailed to a post. (Not my post, I found the photo on the ‘net, but it’s about the same as mine.)
Notice a few things, first of all it’s goddamn stout! Wherever you nail it is where it’s going to stay. I used this for ends of some straight runs. I’d nail the son of a bitch in the wood, wrap wire around it, reef it tight and voila… that section is done.
Because this is old school technology that’s fifty times tougher than the cheap plastic shit, and because it is plenty strong enough to make the damn wire go wherever the hell you want it to go and stay put, I call these insulators “Marines”.
“Marines” cost far more than “Politicians”. I think I was dropping $15 for a box of them? I can’t quite remember and the pigs ate the cardboard box.
Marines are plain colored, unobtrusive, won’t flex, and stay put. You can build an entire fence from anywhere to anywhere with “Marines”. If you try the same thing with Politicians it’ll collapse at the corners. That’s not an analogy, that’s physics.
Note these were relatively short straight runs. My corral has about a zillion gates and at each gate I had to break tension. For longer continuous runs the amassed tension increases at a rate that’s probably in a calculus book somewhere. At some point you have to go from hammering in a porcelain insulator to anchoring the wire with something more elaborate. It wasn’t needed in my situation.
One other note, I went out in my woods and pried some “Marines” out of old oak trees. I don’t know how long they’d been there but I suspect a well installed porcelain insulator will last roughly ten thousand years. Also in my forest were some “Politicians”, maybe I could have used them but I tossed them. Over time “Politicians” fade and it looks like they become brittle and useless. See why I gave them their nicknames?
I never knew what these were called but I always hated them as a kid. The Internet says they’re called Spring Gates. The insulated handle has a spring so you can grab the wire, unhook it from a loop (thus severing the circuit on one side), step through, and then rehook. As a kid I called them “Redneck Gates” because I aways got tangled in them and once caught one in the gears of my bicycle.
As a kid I thought all awesome people had real pipe (tubing) gates and only losers used these. I haven’t changed my mind. Sadly I now have six spring gates stealthinly hovering 6″ above the ground beneath the shiny overpriced gates I truly wanted.
I’ve never seen these things strung beneath a regular tubing gate but it seems to work. I can unhook to drive stuff (like the pig delivery trailer) right in the corral and then rehook when I leave. Also when one pig tried to burrow under the tubing gate he got zapped and let out a squeal like I’d just walloped him with a sledge.
They learned and keep careful distance from the wire now. Money (and time) well spent.
Electric fences need… you guessed it, electricity. The means to supply this is a transformer.
I know someone’s going to ask so here goes. I installed an AC transformer. It runs on AC power delivered by smoke belching coal burning factories that deliver glorious voltage hundreds of miles on huge transmission lines all the way to my little homestead. All this just so I can have bacon? Fabulous! Isn’t the modern world wonderful?
If’ you’re off grid you can get battery powered transformers or setups with solar panels and possibly mini-windmills and for all I know unicorn power. They sell all sorts of innovative stuff that seems a bit weird to me. Wouldn’t an off grid situation merit a non-electric fence? To me, an electric fence is an artifact of cheap plentiful electricity and a truly excellent infrastructure. If I were off grid I’d use barbed wire, boards, rocks, posts, hog panels, a sheepdog, etc… It seemed to work for the last few thousand years. Then again what do I know?
As for transformers, they’re not cheap and they come in a million sizes. The appropriate voltage is “as much as you can get” and the right transformer is “the biggest one you can afford”. Remember Jurassic Park!
Any voltage low enough that it doesn’t actually kill livestock (or me) is just fine. I read a lot of stuff on the Internet about the correct voltage for specific animals and ignored it all. If there was a transformer that could send a bolt of lightning from Zeus’s hand to a pigs ass I’d probably go for it. Make it hurt! Ideally, the critter gets zapped a few times and learns to avoid the fence.
In practice it’s working. Pigs, unlike humans, seem to learn pretty quickly. A few zaps and the critter knows the score. From then on further zapping is unnecessary because it has learned and it stops doing stupid shit. This proves that critters are often smarter than people.
I’m pretty sure by now I could turn the system off and my pigs wouldn’t dig out. Your mileage may vary. If your critters have been zapped a few times and still try to get out they may be more aggressive than mine (my pigs like me!) or possibly they understand electrical theory and are testing for a power outage when they can rebel against your despotic rule.