Temporary Fencing Tips

There are some subtle things I do when building temporary fence that make a huge difference. It’s the difference between having the cows where you want them or having the cows in the neighbor’s field. It’s the difference between a fence that shorts out and a fence that registers nearly 10,000 volts.


Keep in mind I’m talking temporary divisions, not permanent or seasonal perimeter fencing. The kind of fence you build each day to hold the cows that one day only. We typically make paddock subdivisions with a mix of pigtail posts and rebar posts. I use pigtails on the ends and rebar in the middle. I would prefer to have all pigtails but they are more expensive than rebar and money is an object. But you have to do it right to be successful. Let’s start with a common error I see in our fencing. I’ll exaggerate each of these to make the point obvious.


Do you see what is wrong? The tension on the string will pull the string out of the insulator. We are just one stray deer away from disaster. Disaster! Any small disturbance and the wire will pull free of the insulator, the fence will hit the ground and the cows will walk out. So we try to put the wire on the far side of the post like this:


This is more like it. But even this has flaws. Too much tension on the fence (possibly caused by deer or just overtightening) can twist the insulator and allow the wire to short against the metal post.


So the real right way to manage a sharp angle is to use a pigtail. The pigtail wraps entirely around the wire, holding it securely with no chance of a short. On top of that, pigtail posts have a foot that will lend stability to the corner. And they are flexible so when that tree branch falls on the fence the corner will give, hopefully preventing the wire from breaking.


Which is just fine when you are dealing with single-wire temporary fencing. But you aren’t always using single-wire temporary fencing. Which is why you should build your temporary fence in straight lines whenever possible. However, pigtail posts are sized for cow noses, not pig noses and certainly not sheep noses.

Now, I have to share a caution about the pigtail post above. I have several that now short out. Here’s the deal. See that open end on the coated wire above? Water goes in there when it rains. Water expands when it freezes. Brittle plastic coating doesn’t take abuse. Split plastic coating gives the circuit a shortcut to ground. What a pain in the rear. Check your pigtails early and often.

Finally, at the end of the fence is the reel. We hang our reels from the perimeter fence when possible. Otherwise they hang from pigtails. But there is a right and a wrong way to do this too. The twist of the pigtail can either help or hurt us. You may not understand this by looking at pictures but the lean of the reel has either solid pressure against the pigtail or it will fall off in a slight breeze, shorting out your fence, allowing your cows to go for a field trip. This is right:


This is wrong:


And for Pete’s sake, make sure the reel is off to the side of the post, not allowing the wire to make contact with the post!

There is more. If your fence runs along a hill, the transition from slope to flat can be problematic for hooked insulators. You need both hooks to have a firm grasp of the wire as below:


But if I turn that same insulator around, putting the wire on the other side of the post only one hook has a secure hold on the wire:


These insulators are made with two hooks, not just one. You need to leverage both hooks. Otherwise, the cows will get out. Believe me. I have some experience with this.

One final tip: always carry a fence tester with you. Ours can turn off our fence remotely…bonus. It’s not enough to know that the fence snaps when shorted. You need to know if you are at the full 10,000 volts or just 5,000. If you don’t, the cows will get out.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any other fence building tips.



5 thoughts on “Temporary Fencing Tips

  1. Very useful stuff. I’ve been slowly learning the hard way with the yellow “hook” insulators, especially on corners. I see the pigtale posts around occasionally, but they’re less common here than the coloured plastic step in posts with very solid built in hooks all up and down them. They work super well for novices like me until the pigs figure out how to lift them with their snouts by getting under the step thingy. My key tip, therefore, make sure the step thingy is facing out away from them.

    I’d love more detail on how to hang the reel. Do you always hang on a pigtale post? What are the guidelines for doing it – how do you know which way is “good” lean? How do you connect it to the cross fence? I suspect I wouldn’t be able to hang a reel on one of the plastic posts, so it would have to be on my perimeter (non-electric) fence or a rebar or T post. Tips?

    • The right way to hang on a pigtail is obvious. Either the reel falls off or it doesn’t. The key is to point the loop of the pigtail straight at the fence line…right in line with it.

      We usually hang the reel on something solid. Words are making this difficult. Sometimes we brace a pigtail with another pigtail. You down? A second post leaning into the first to provide strength against the pull of the wire. But the reel is always past the intersecting fence line…that’s where we get our power.

      This isn’t working. Need to make another post.

  2. I took some short 3-4″ pieces of rebar and welded steps onto most on my rebar posts to make them into step-in posts. It doesn’t seem like it would make that big of a difference, but you’d be surprised how much quicker and easier it is when you don’t need to carry a hammer to pound in each post.

    On my semi-permanent fences, I build my corner posts by putting a piece of 2″ PVC over a t-post, and then wrapping my wire around the PVC. The same idea would probably work with temporary fences, just use something like a 3′ long piece of smaller PVC (3/4″?) that would easily slip over a rebar post, wrap your wire around it a couple of times to tighten the fence, and you wouldn’t need to worry about insulators slipping on the post, or the fence grounding out.

    • I really like that step post idea. That has got to save a ton of time, not to mention effort. Not that I am fencing nearly the amount of area you guys are fencing. I only have 4 acres and mostly am looking to keep the deer out of the garden, but its not how had you work, it’s how smart you work, as they say. Think I am going to try this trick. Should work well around the raspberries and blueberries too. Thank you for the share.

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