A mixture of high-tensile permanent and portable polywires and tapes often prove to be the best choices for cross fences. Try to create paddocks by placing several permanent cross-fences on obvious topographical changes, not forgetting to include stockwater inside the paddock, or access down a lane to the water. If you are grazing irrigated pasture, ditches can also be your water source. Two wires are usually adequate for mature cattle and larger calves, while three wires are a better choice for horses or cattle with smaller calves.
Use portable polywires and polytapes on handy reels for your internal fencing. There are many portable post types to choose from. Plastic treadins with multiple wire lugs to be the most adaptable. They can be placed on 30-50 foot spacings, and the wires tightened by hand. On irrigated pasture with horses and mature cattle, one charged wire may be sufficient, but when on dry soils or winter-grazing on frozen soil or dry snow, you may need to use several wires, alternating the polarity between hot – ground – hot, etc. By carrying the ground out to the animal via a wire, you remove poor grounding as a source of problems.
Try not to graze and rest each paddock the same number of days regardless of the growth stage of the forage. Aim for the shortest grazing period per paddock needed to harvest the available forage, say one to four days, then a minimum 30 day rest period during fast plant growth. As plant growth slows, then adjust to five to ten days grazing and 60 to 80 days of rest per paddock. You can see why multiple paddocks are needed to reach these levels of rest, but by subdividing with portable electric fencing, it becomes achievable.
There are also a few things to consider that really help in maintenance and troubleshooting. The first is how the fences are energized. The heart of any electric fence system is the power source, or energizer. A 110-volt plug-in energizer versus a battery or solar unit is generally the best choice. More of your dollars can go to power and not batteries, solar panels, etc.
A battery unit is a great choice if you don’t have 110-volt power available. Also, get specific recommendations as to the size of the energizer by matching it to the job at hand: How long is the perimeter fence? What type of animal are you controlling? Does the fence run through high vegetation? Will you add on to the system eventually? All these questions will help your supplier match an energizer to your needs.
Lastly, consider investing in a digital voltmeter designed to monitor your fences and energizer. They are handheld meters that measure the voltage output of the energizer, or at any point along the fenceline. They are invaluable in diagnosing any problems that may crop up.
I hope this gives you a bit of familiarity with what equipment and techniques are available to help in establishing your grazing plan. There is definitely a bit of work and a learning curve involved, but seeing your critters hock-deep in lush grass while your neighbors are forking hay (and forking out dollars, too!) can be priceless!