Electric containment fences for livestock and horses

What’s the issue?

Electric containment fences are used for the following reasons:

  • to prevent livestock and horses from moving into dangerous areas;
  • to protect the public by preventing animals from straying on to roads and potentially causing an accident;
  • to manage grass quality and make sure that there is enough pasture to feed livestock and horses;
  • as an alternative to barbed wire fencing which can injure livestock and horses if they become entangled.

However, if not used responsibly, electric containment fences can cause pain, injury and distress to livestock and horses. It’s important to reiterate that under the UK Animal Welfare Acts humans responsible for animals must ensure that the animals under their care are protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

This includes protecting animals from pain or suffering caused by inappropriate and aversive training methods, containment systems or fences.

What do we think about it?

All electric containment fences can harm or injure animals, especially if not correctly designed, installed or maintained. So we’re encouraging further research into alternative, non-harmful ways to contain livestock and horses.

However, until these kinds of methods are available, we support the responsible use of electric containment fences to make sure livestock and horses can graze safely and efficiently

We recommend:see the list in full in the BVA position on the use of electric containment fences in livestock and horses:

  • Designing, selecting and maintaining electric containment fences to make sure that the strength of current is appropriate for the species and does not deliver severe shocks.
  • Designing, selecting and maintaining  electric containment fences according to AHDB Electric fencing for livestock guidance or in line with advice set out in the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) Equine Industry Welfare Guidelines Compendium for Horses, Ponies and Donkeys. This will make sure that the fencing is suitable for the species being contained by the fence.
  • Designing, selecting and maintaining physical electric containment fences so that the public and other animals are not put at ris
  • Carefully maintaining batteries used to power electric fences to avoid any damage that could cause leakage and environmental hazards or potential toxicity in livestock.
  • Attaching flags or other visual marker to fencing to make sure that the fence is visible to livestock and horses.
  • Using highly visible tape- or rope-like electric fencing for horses
  • Training of livestock and horses so that they can get used to fencing in a controlled environment. Guidance on training livestock is available in the AHDB Electric fencing for livestock guidance
  • Rapidly identifying, monitoring and removing animals who do not respond to training or continue to challenge electric containment fencing 

Virtual electric containment fencing may also have a role to play in protecting animal health and welfare. We’d welcome species-specific research into the use of virtual electric containment fencing to enable an evidence-based approach to its use across livestock species.

Until we have this research, virtual electric containment fencing should be used responsibly with the appropriate auditory and visual cues to make sure animals can detect, and are aware of, fence boundaries. 

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