Using electric net gates

Every farm needs gates, but especially those combining vegetables and goats. Gates are the natural weak point of any fence, and have to keep all possible predators out and all occupants in while being reasonably convenient to use. It’s pretty hard to get a heavy, solid gate that will stop deer, goats, and dogs set up to keep raccoons and rabbits from going right underneath, or vice versa. This is especially true when the gate in question needs to be big enough to allow equipment through, as opposed to a narrow garden gate.

So far we’ve had reasonably good success with electronet gates from Premier 1 fencing, in Iowa. These gates are about 3’x20′, composed of a wire net that can be hooked to your electric fence. This keeps low-down creatures away (coons, dogs, rabbits) through its charge, and offers a reasonable visual barrier to goats. The latter are capable of jumping over, but so far our dairy goats are pretty well trained and don’t test it. It would be easy to string several wires with hooked handles above the gate if we felt the need (this will likely be our approach in the vegetable field, to keep deer out). You can see one of these gates in action above, used together with a five-strand electrified wire fence around our home goat paddock.

The gates are easy to use; they are self-supporting through metal rods in the insulated poles, and you just clip/unclip the power from the fence as needed. They do tend to sag over time, though, and when the ground is hard (frozen or compacted) it can be hard to insert the poles enough to stay up. You also have to be careful not to short them out on the adjoining fence post. Here are a few tricks I’ve figured out to make using these gates even easier.

1) Set up wooden gate posts. It’s easier to insulate against a wood post than a metal T-post (see below), and they are more stable. This also gives you the option to replace with a “real” gate someday if desired. Below, you see a recently installed farm-cut cedar post.

2) Cut short pieces of 1/2″ PVC pipe (maybe 6″ long) and pound into the ground wherever you want a net gate post to go. The pipe makes a perfect reciever for the post’s metal rod, and holds it reasonably vertical. It’s far easier to pull the gate in and out of this when you go through than it is to keep trying to shove it into mud or compacted soil. When combined with Tip # 3, this works really well.

3) Buy a couple large insulated coat hooks from a hardware store, and screw into the wooden post at an appropriate height to catch the net gate post. When done right, you can pull the net gate tight and slip it into this hook, which maintains tension on the gate and keeps it from sagging. The insulated cover keeps it from shorting out on the powered wires. It’s very easy to simply slip the post out from this hook to open the gate. It might not hold against much pressure, but the whole point of an electric net gate is that nothing puts pressure on 7,500 volts for very long.

4) Use basic power clamps/alligator clips to run power to the gate. I use a large plastic-handled clamp on the gate end, with the wire spliced into a small metal alligator clip at the other end which attaches to one line of the electric fence. You just have to grab the plastic clamp, unclip it, hang it somewhere insulated (like the insulated wire wrapping around the post), and use the gate as you see fit. You can see this clamp above. Premier sells them as a double-ended arrangement; I cut the wire in half, splice on two metal alligator clips, and have two gate power setups for the price of one.

5) I don’t have a good photo of this, but each gate is divided into two 10′ sections by a central post. If you arrange your fences right, you can use both of these halves as two gates in one. This is especially effective at a right-angle corner, in which the central post is in effect a pivot around which either half can open. We have one set up this way at a junction between our home goat paddock, a road to our field, and another goat paddock. Depending on which way we open which half of the gate, we can allow the goats through to any of the three places while naturally blocking off the place we don’t want them to go to.

Pretty basic stuff, but if you haven’t tried these gates before, they’re quite convenient. Not the cheapest option in the world, but neither is the engineering required to hang a solid gate that will control every possible animal in both directions and still be easy to use.

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