Fence Me In: Selecting the Best Wire for Electric Fencing

Do you know how to select the best material?



Electric fence is probably the most practical fence for your livestock needs. Not only does it ensure that your livestock is securely contained to your property, but it also allows you to safely keep wild animals out of your property and pasture area, as well as allowing for much versatility in the set up and up keep of your pasture and grazing land.

The question then becomes what is the best wire option for my fencing needs? This is a question that cannot be answered the same for all farms or ranches. Let’s take a look at the wire choices available and how they are best used.

The most common types of electric fence wire are high-tensile galvanized steel or aluminum wire, poly-tape, poly-rope, poly-wire. Knowing your fencing needs will allow you to more successfully select the wire type that best suits you and your livestock.

Galvanized steel

Galvanized steel is perhaps the most commonly-used electric fencing material, though that does not mean that is the best option for all fencing needs. It is cheaper than the alternatives and can be hooked to almost any charger quickly and easily. Steel does have a lower conductivity than aluminum, but it can be pieced together with extensions and it can run over a long distance without impacting the charge on the fence. It can be used for either temporary or permanent fencing.

Aluminum wire

Aluminum wire costs more than steel or high-tensile; however, in exchange for its higher cost you will also get a better conductivity and a longer life as it will not rust. This wire can be used for a permanent fence or a temporary perimeter. Because of its exceptional conductivity it is better for longer stretches of fence then some of the other alternatives.

One thing to keep in mind when using a high-tensile fence, be it aluminum or steel, is that these fences do not have much give and are rather stiff and unforgiving. This can be a dangerous situation if you have a horse, bull, or cow that is prone to charging fences. These fence types are more likely to cause injury to an animal than some of the poly options mentioned below.

Some of these problems can be alleviated by electric fence-training your herd or attaching flag strips to the fence to catch livestock’s eye as they are less likely to charge something that they can see than a thin wire that is not as easily visible to them.


Poly fencing comes in three varieties: wire, tape and rope, each with its own unique features.

Poly wire is more visible to animals than conventional high-tensile options; however, it is not as secure against the impact of a fast-moving animal and will give way if hit by a horse, bull or other large fast moving livestock. On the other hand, poly wire is easily used for the construction of temporary fencing such as used in strip or rotational grazing.

Poly rope is more robust than poly wire while still being more visible to your livestock: this option consists of poly wire reinforced with galvanized steel wire for strength and durability. Being a thinner profile than poly tape, it will not be impacted by the weather as much as tape, but will still have the durability required to give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your herd is secure in their pasture.  Again, poly rope comes in many color options as well as multiple conductivity levels giving you a good variety of choices for your specific needs.

Poly tape is perhaps the least functional of the three poly fencing options. While it is more visible to livestock, it does have a wider profile that has a higher potential for damage caused by wind, ice or snowy conditions. Poly tape is probably the best option for fence training, strip grazing and temporary fencing. The benefits to the width is that it can be purchased in multiple colors that you can adapt to the terrain you are housing your livestock in: white tape in a green grassy area, red tape in a snowy area, etc. These options allow your herd to see the fence more clearly and avoid it, making it a great a training tool to acclimating your herd to electric fencing.

Electrifying a pre-existing fence

Many farms don’t want to replace pre-existing fences. Adding electric elements to existing board fences can greatly improve the life of the fence by preventing horses from leaning against it. Most often this is done by running a strand of wire or tape along the top of the fence, held on by insulators.

As you can see there are several types of fence wire available to farmers and ranchers alike. These options will allow you to choose the best for your needs. Knowing the land that you are working, the animals that are being contained and the weather conditions in your area will help you to determine if the best fence for you is constructed of high-tensile or poly wire.

References and helpful links:

Planning and Building Fences on the Farm: The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

Fencing Systems – Fences That Work: Temporary Electric Fence Materials Evaluation: The University of Maine

Kelly Schuermann loves horses and has been around them since she was young. She loves the outdoors and riding whenever she can. For the past eight years she has been blogging professionally. She has been working for Gallagher Fence since October 2015 and loves helping people get the most out of their electric fences.

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