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Dairy Farmer Answers Stray Voltage Question


I'm a master electrician in the Iowa City Iowa area and also teach in the electrical field. I have been following stray voltage issues for some time and wonder if all farm animals suffer from the effects. I grew up around farms and still have farm connections. It is a standing joke (but not really that funny) about farmers and wiring methods. Perhaps if in some way I can show local farmers their wiring methods are hurting their animals, they might change their wiring.

Bob Olson


Hi Bob

The effects of current on the animals are real and it certainly can be devastating. There is a wide gap that divides the issues, the utilities on one hand, and the livestock producers on the other. No easy answer has come of nearly 30 years of conflict. One thing is clear; keeping the use, distribution, and transmission, of electricity, safe has to be the most important issue.

I cannot agree more with your statement that wiring methods can improve the environment for the animals. However there is certainly room for improvement in the electrical distribution to farms as well. As you well know the loads at farms have increased dramatically over the years and in many instances the distribution systems have not taken the changing load patterns and aging distribution systems into consideration.

We are now seeing stray voltage issues involving people in towns and communities, as well.

The answer to why the problems are occurring can certainly be poor on farm wiring and the farmers and their electricians can correct that by using the NEC as a minimum acceptable standard. Livestock facilities have special wiring needs that are addressed in the NEC. The use of 4 wire single phase and 5 wire 3 phase can be an effective means of lowering the potential from current using parallel paths provided by the grounding system to return to the X2 or XO because of secondary neutral voltage drop. The balancing of loads and use of 240V motors can lower many levels of stray current.

I suggest you search Mike Holt's stray voltage website articles on stray voltage. Mike is also focusing on grounding and bonding issues because there is great confusion about the purpose and intent.

The primary reason I became involved in this area is due to an utility electrical engineer installing dual triplexes in parallel and not phasing out the triplexes so each triplex carries both phases, i.e. AB & AB not AA & BB. In this situation this caused a tremendous stray voltage and the utility would not correct the situation until OSHA became involved. Can you imagine what a 400A load and 160A of induced neutral current can do?

I would enjoy visiting with you about the issues and certainly would be glad to speak with any farmers about the stray current issues. Communication is the answer and as you well know, education will provide the answers to the known and unknown questions.

I am copying this to Mike Holt as well, since he has a tremendous array of teaching aides that I am sure would help you communicate with your students and the farmers.

Chuck Untiedt, Dairy Farmer

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