Saturday, March 01, 2008

Thinking About Fencing...

Lately I have been thinking about fencing. Despite all of the snow on the ground I know that spring is going to be coming soon and with it there will be some opportunities to do some fencing projects that are needing to be done. But, in the world of fencing there are so many options that sometimes I'm not even sure of where I need to begin and what I need to be looking at. I thought I would just open it up for discussion and see what a variety of people think.

Basically our fencing needs will break down into two categories. First of all we need to do some permanent perimeter fencing. This will be a combination of replacing some old fence between us and a neighbor and putting up some new fence along the road. The second fencing need will be interior fencing for Management Intensive Grazing (electric and easy to move).

When it comes to the perimeter fencing the choices range from 4 or 5 strands of barbed wire, to woven wire, to woven wire with 1 or 2 barbed wires on top, and even to 2 or three strands of electric (I saw that on a pasture walk last year). One thing that we have to keep in mind is the variety of livestock that we will be running on the farm. Anything from our Dexters, my families horses, sheep, goats, or pigs could be on the farm so we need something that will work for all of the above. Also, cost always needs to be considered in these types of situations ... what gives you the most bang for the buck?

For the interior electric fencing the options really break down into posts and wire. There are so many posts out there from fiberglass ones with 3 or more wire hooks, to step in re-bar posts with plastic insulators, and even steel step in posts with a pig tail on the top for the wire. Obviously we need something that goes in and out easily, but also works for our short cattle (Dexters). Also, does it matter if the calf can walk under the wire? What type of wire is also an issue. We could use the inexpensive steel, the slightly more expensive aluminum, or the most expensive poly-rope or wire. Here price is a factor, but ease of moving and longevity is also very important.

So, what are you using? What works for you? I would love to hear from anyone who is doing MiG about their interior fencing. I would love to hear from people that are just thinking about it, but have ideas! Basically I'm putting out an appeal for help :)


Rich said...

If you do a good job of installing your perimeter fencing it should last at least 20, 30, or even 40 years, so don't fall into the trap of trying to build it as cheaply as possible.

Slightly upgrade your fence installation methods; use corner posts that are slightly larger in diameter and slightly longer than the norm, install your corner posts deeper than the norm, space your line posts slightly closer together, add an extra wire or two, etc. Your fencing costs might increase 10-15%, but your fence will last much longer and you won't be spending as much time maintaining it in the future.

I just finished building some perimeter fencing, and I used 6 strands of barbwire spaced about 7.5 inches apart, with the thought that I could easily upgrade it in the future if I chose to graze something like goats in combination with cattle.

Anonymous said...

Ethan - Your post didn't mention high tensile electric fence. Down here on FFF, we're planning to use 5 wire high tensile electric. We talked to a farm extension agent that raised sheep for 40 years and said that 6 wire high tensile was the best choice (even for sheep). The only thing we're worried about is pigs... might be hard to keep them in. But we don't plan on having them running around soon. Then again, we might have 18 in 6 months. :)

As for cost, high tensile electric is dramatically cheaper than something like woven wire. Barbed wire and electric is supposed to be a bad combination. Animals can be hard on barbed wire... I've seen them leaning right on it to eat on the other side. Also, woven wire fences can't stand up to trees falling on them. High tensile usually pops right back up and is easy to repair.

As for interior fences, HT wires are strong enough to support your reel, and the exterior electric powers rhe interior.

Obviously we believe in HT electric as the best combo of price and function. Looking forward to other comments.

Walter Jeffries said...

I would be incline against the barbed wire. I'm picking it up, gradually, for the past decade, all over the place, from our land. It's a horrid hazard to wildlife, livestock, children, me, equipment, etc. The trees don't appreciate it either.

We use electrified high tensile for the outside perimeter.

For the paddock divisions we use polywire on step in posts. Maybe someday I'll replace some paddock divisions with permanent wire.

We also use poultry netting - great stuff. Keeps poultry, sheep, pigs in. Clip the bottom two leads to keep it from grounding - especially necessary on our uppity-downity hill country land. Might not be an issue if we had flat fields. Make squares and tension the corners with pegs and twine on the outside. Great for rotational grazing.


in Vermont

QuiltedSimple said...

We use high tensil wire on all of our pastuers - that is then electrified. The cattle have 4 strands (with the top and 3rd one down electrified). This way they can be our "weed eater" and reach under the fence so we don't have to weed eat. We have a "horse pasture" that is 6 strands, again with every other wire electrified leaving the bottom wire cold. It works great for us, the fencing has been in place since summer of 98 with no real maintenance other than replacing a fencing staple here and there (we walk the fence every spring, mid summer and fall checking for spots that need attention). We like the high tensil because even if the animal goes through it, they usually walk away without a scratch (one of the horses flipped over it sommersault wise, and had not a knick on her).

Steven said...

The anonymous message was from chris, my brother-in-law / farming partner, so that is what we're planning to do. If it makes any differance.... The high tencile fences we have seen around here look really sharp! I couldnt believe how much cheaper it is too.

Ethan Book said...

Thanks everyone for your responses! I would love to hear more from anyone else who would like to throw in their two cents.

Chris and all ... I didn't mention high tensile electric! I suppose the reason I didn't think of it is because I never see it around here ... man does that mean I'm too conventional :(

But really, I would love to hear more about it and I'll be doing some research for sure. What kind of posts do you need to use (all wood)? What gauge is the wire? How many do you electrify (thanks for that info quiltedsimple)? A couple of you said that it is less expensive ... any ideas on the per foot cost or something along those lines?

Walter, I would also be interested in hearing more about yours because I know that you have plenty of hogs to keep in! What spacing do you use? Do you electrify each wire? How many wires?

Thanks so much and keep the thoughts coming!

Blair H. said...

We do an extensive amount of permanent electric fencing on our place. Originally we had a hot wire on top, ground in the middle, then a hot wire on the bottom, all high tensile. Now we just have a single strand high tensile wire for all our permanent electric fencing. It's been our experience that it's no less effective only having one wire than three. We run only cattle though, so that's a consideration. Spring gates are expensive and easily stretched too far, we now use electric fence rope, it's a lot better. We also bury an underground conduit so when the gate is open the rest of the fence is still hot.

Our chargers are the Stafix brand hooked to a car battery and solar panel. We have about 15 miles of permanent electric fence and probably 10 of temporary fence.

Ethan Book said...

Blair H - Thanks for your input on fencing and for reading the blog! I was wondering how long your batteries last before they need to be recharged? I think in our application we would be able to have plug in power, but I was just curious.

Blair H said...

I always enjoy your blog, so I'm happy to finally be able to give some input on something I have a lot of experience with. We use marine/rv batteries, and without a solar panel expect them to fully power a charger for 14 days. For our stretch of fence that is 7 miles or so, we have an AC charger that is plugged into the barn. One stretch of 3 miles has a larger charger, with a big solar panel. On our permanent battery powered chargers, we built a little enclosure so if there is a problem and the power goes down, cattle can't chew on the wires. I don't know how, but they learn immediately if the fence isn't hot and chew up all the charger wires!

Mellifera said...

Amen on overbuilding the fence- it's the real Lazy Man's Solution, because you don't have to do it again for 25 years. We've got a friend around here who's teaching us how to fence and looking around at his neighbors' fences... let's just say it's lucky we wound up with him for a coach. ; )

I've heard good things about black locust for durable fence posts- apparently it doesn't rot for a long time (decades), even in the wet midwest.

Anonymous said...

We use 16' cattle panels. It costs a little more, but is very easy to install, as well as move. It keeps all of our animals (dexters, pigmy goats and fainting goats) in.

-Chris in Iowa

P.S. I enjoy your blog, keep up the good work.

Ethan Book said...

Chris - Thanks for checking out the blog! Right now our front lot where the cows have spent the snowy parts of the winter is in cattle panels, but the thought of doing 30 or more acres with them and the posts does kind of scare me!

I have wondered about high tensile as a bull fence when I want to separate the bull. I wonder if it would be good enough, or if I should have a separate bull area with some stout fence?

Steven said...

We're going to use our current cattle panel fencing for our bull pen, and if we need to separate for any other reason. But, even that isn't full proof. Like I mentioned before some mysterious combination of 2 dexter cows and 2 horses busted through 2 corners of our heavy cattle panels and broke a half-round wood post off at the ground!

I think one of those sites you listed said to use more wires (8 or more) for pens like that, but for what it's worth, our fencing guy didn't think it was the best idea to make a "pen" out of it. He though it would be better to use cattle panels or wood with electric.

Ethan Book said...

Steven - How many posts did you have per panel? They must have really wanted to get out huh ... :) Breaking a post off at the ground is pretty serious though!

Steven said...

We had posts every 8 foot. Since it was on the corner, they pulled the panel off the railroad tie (the only place where it was stapled on the outside instead of the inside of the paddock) and then broke the post that was in the middle of the panel. My posts were all bought from an old cattle farm where they tore down all the corrals and sold the stuff cheap. The posts were still good and solid though, I thought, but at the time I had no way of buying new. I was still in college.
We're going to add on to that side of the fence so I think I might add a 4 or 6ft gate in that spot anyways. That way I don't have to dig out the old post end, I can put an odd spaced post next to it.

Sorry, that's probably too much information.

Anonymous said...

This is Great reading. I am in Vermont and I have goats. I was wondering if any of your friends new what gage high tensile wire I should use. I have wooden fence post in the ground. This is permanent. I have This for my pigs and it worked great but no Idea for goats. I can tell you I have had very bad experience with High tensile wire and horses. It cuts threw them if they break it. Not good. Please any one out there help. You can also send me an email to Thanks so much I posted anonymous because I have no account. Please email me thanks. Again,

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