Fencing for productivity and diversity

The purpose of this workshop was to demonstrate how to design and install electric fencing in ways that make a small farm more productive and increase the range of plants and animals living there. Dean Paton from Gallagher Fencing, Matt Chidgey from Southern Ag and David Hilhorst from Works for Water were the guest speakers at this workshop, sharing their fencing skills in practical and theory sessions.


Some key points from the workshop:

  • The best type of fence to install depends on many factors including land form, location and the purpose of the fence. Electric fencing is suited to managing livestock, predators and feral animals. An electric fence energiser converts mains or battery power to a high voltage pulse. Electric fences generally work by becoming a psychological barrier to animals – they learn about the ‘shock’ that is delivered when they touch the fence and start to avoid it.
  • Effective farm planning and observing animal behaviour can save you time and money. By observing your livestock and the movement patterns of wildlife, you could save money by slightly shifting the location of a fence or aligning it with existing animal tracks. Here are some questions to ask. Why are animals putting pressure on a fence? How can I use a fence to move and manage my livestock or wildlife better? The information sheet written by David Hilhorst (see below) outlines fencing design strategies including fencing for holistic grazing, fencing to land class and wildlife friendly design.
  • Permanent electric fencing can compare favourably to conventional fences in terms of cost. The cost of a fence is determined by many variables including the slope, recommended spacing of posts, dropper interval and the types of materials used. At the time of writing a standard fence will cost approximately $12 a metre for materials and labour. Permanent electric fencing will cost about $10.50 a metre for an 8 strand electric suspension fence such as the Weston Fence demonstrated in this video. The energiser for the electric fence is not included in this cost. For information and advice on pricing and design, contact a fencing supplier. It is wise to shop around and discuss options with other small farmers for the fence that you are building.
  • For fences in flood prone areas, the flood gates should be able to release from the posts if the pressure of water or debris gets too high. Some options for the materials used in flood areas include secondhand fencing materials and semi permanent movable electric fencing .
  • Choosing the correct energiser and earth return system for an electric fence is important. According to Dean Paton, the energiser should be located halfway along the fence. For an electric fence to be effective the electric circuit must be completed. This is achieved by grounding. In dry areas effective earthing can be achieved by using an earth return system or betonite to improve conductivity.
    More information about earthing systems can be found here.
David Hilhorst demonstrating how to tie a fencing knot

Useful resources and links

Free fencing handbook

Guidelines for fencing in flood prone areas

Wildlife friendly fencing design

Fencing how and where for small farms

Basic Information on Electric fencing

Gallegher Fencing Website

There are a range of fencing materials online. The product demonstrated at this workshop was from Gallagher but you could also try Waratah Fencing.


This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.