I’ve had a nasty cold since Sunday. Will picked it up at Barnes and Noble last week and we’ve had it making the rounds. Annoying. That may explain my error. Of course, this happens when I need to be doing planting and moving animals out to new pasture. Grr…

The above diagram is a very simplified transformer. 8,000 volts of alternating current is applied to the black wire which coils around the brown wire but does not touch the brown wire. In fact, they are separated by an insulator.

When we moved the whey feeding tubs out to the south field for the summer I did, what I thought was a smart thing at the time – I hung the 1″ black plastic waterline feed pipe from a section of smooth high tensile wire that was electrified. I wrapped a coil of poly wire around the black plastic water pipe to attach it to the fence wire. This gave me a nice even slope down hill so the pipe would be self draining and so the pigs wouldn’t mess with the pipe. I’ve used short lengths of wire around pipes before like this with no problem. I tested it and no electricity passed through the pipe. I wouldn’t expect any since the plastic is a good insulator – of electricity. I was bit fuzzy headed and my excuse is the cold.

The black wire carries a current which produces an electromagnetic field. When the brown is filled with air there is nothing to notice. If you put a wire in there you can pickup an inducted current. In this case the black wire, the poly wire wrapping around the pipe and fence line, is very long. Whey is a liquid and it has a little bit of salt in it – after all, milk is based on mother’s sweat. The salt makes an ionic solution which is a conductor passing through the black plastic pipe thus creating a ‘wire’. The black plastic pipe insulates against electricity but not against electromagnetic fields. Thus the ‘wire’ picks up the induced current. Oops!

This explains why the pigs did not initially drink from the new whey tub I setup out in the field. Instead they were standing around loudly complaining that something was wrong. Holly noticed that and I checked it while she manned the fence switch. There was no actual connection between the fence and the whey or the tub yet they were acting like the tub was ‘hot’ – how puzzling. I found that the whey was electrified by gingerly sticking my finger in the running stream of whey coming out of the pipe and grounding myself – a real fence tester would have been nice. After rechecking that no fencing was touching and repeating the experiment I figured out what was happening. Removing the coil of wire along the whey pipe solved the problem.

Happy pigs. Fuzzy, slightly electrified, farmer.

Interesting, to my finger’s touch it appeared that the induced current was strongest when the whey was flowing as opposed to when it was sitting in the pipe static. I’m still thinking about that one. Is it merely that the ‘wire’ was longer or is there a generator effect being produced by the ions traveling down the pipe… Now for an infinite supply of whey up the hill. :)

Sun-Weds: Outdoors: 78°F/45°F Sunny, one brief shower Sunday
Farm House: 68°F/52°F
Tiny Cottage: 73°F/63°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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14 Responses to Shocking

  1. pablo says:

    I’ll never understand electricity.

  2. Don says:

    Amen, Brother Pablo.

  3. Brian H says:

    Now if only you could measure that current and take the alternative energy tax credit. ZZZZZZZTTTT.

    Ditto on Pablo. I never understood electricity.

  4. Patti says:

    I’m impressed your fuzzy, cold filled brain even is thinking! May I suggest each family member carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer to use while in town. It seems to me country people pick up city germs easier since we are not expossed to then everyday and I have found using the hand sanitizer after exiting each store has cut way down on illness.

  5. Patti, Normally we do have a bottle of hand sanitizing jell and moisturizer with alcohol in the car that we use after each store. Unfortunately we ran out and paid the price. Perhaps that shows that the stuff works…

  6. Anonymous says:

    When flowing, you have a better conductor. When not flowing, air can get in the line and break the continuity.

    That was such a great story. Thanks.

  7. Aye, that’s what I meant by the ‘wire’ being longer while it is flowing thus making or a bigger antenna or picking up the induced current. A demonstration of the importance of antenna length. It also makes one think about electric fences and lightning EMP. So far we’ve been lucky there but there was a very long section of wire in our sugar bush that was vaporized by lightning. I didn’t see it but I saw the melted blobs all over afterwards…

  8. Holly says:

    Ahh, my poor “fuzzy, slightly electrified farmer.” Walter as many times as I watch you be the fence tester, I don’t think I will ever be able to purposefully put myself in the line of electrical fire. : )

  9. Anonymous says:

    Walter you are crazy! Don’t you know touching the hot fence is a good way to get shocked!

  10. Plack says:

    Something is not right here. If only only one end of the wire was connected to the fence (which is the correct way to connect it), what is completing the circuit on the primary side of the “transformer”.

    Secondary, how is the whey connected to ground? I thought you had that in a plastic tank?

  11. Plank (may I call you Max?), the answer to #1 is that the fence is not a simple antenna but a complex loop circuit and not perfectly isolated. The reason for the loop is it does a better job of powering the whole system than if I do one single line. This was one of my questions when I first set up fencing. Theory and testing both gave the answer that a loop was better than a line as it shortens the distance to the farthest point. Like most real-world electric fences ours has shorts to earth on grasses, brush, etc. The result is there is a complete circuit.

    The answer to #2 is the whey is grounded at the feeding bath tub. The storage tub up on the hill is indeed plastic and thus isolated but the feeding tubs are cast iron and steel bathtubs. They are very well grounded. When the whey is flowing the liquid streams from the pipe just above the tub down into the tub creating a 500′ long complete circuit between the cast iron feeding tub in the south field and the steel feeding tub in the north home field.



  12. Nat Kauffman says:

    I’m not understanding the situation. Did the poly wire have current flowing through it? I thought it was just a piece of wire wrapped around the fence wire and the pipe.

    • Current was flowing through the polywire because it was hanging from the fence line. This acted as the primary winding. It was not a beautiful transformer, probably very inefficient, but it worked enough to be a problem.

  13. jayessdub says:

    Walter, thanks for writing about the bad things that happen as well as the good.


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