How to choose – Fences for the farm

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How to choose – Fences for the farm

How to choose – Fences for the farm

Fences for the farm

Many innovations have occurred in the fencing industry in recent years, giving producers an array of options for fences to confine and protect livestock. Whether used as permanent, periphery boundaries, temporary pasture dividers or to encircle a house, fences need careful planning and construction for efficient usefulness, long life and low maintenance.

Purpose of the Fence:

The first consideration in deciding the best fence is the purpose for which it will be used. Livestock protection and confinement are the main reasons for considering fencing, but the fencing needs for various types (species, age, breed, production system) of livestock vary widely. Following are some of the livestock types and situations with special requirements:


Most types of fence can be used with cattle, so most cattle producers assess factors such as expense, ease of construction and expected life of the fence when considering fencing strategy. In the past, woven wire and barbed wire were the most common fence types; however, high-tensile fencing is rapidly gaining popularity. Fence height for perimeter cattle fences should be a minimum of 54 inches (140cm). When bulls are penned separately from cows, special attention must be paid to construction. Heavy posts with thick-gauge wire or cables are required, or electric fence may be effectively used. Fences for handling facilities must be strong enough to withstand heavy usage, tall enough (60 inches minimum) (150cm) to prevent escape, and clearly visible. Treated wood or heavy wire panel fences are preferred.


Visibility is a necessary characteristic in fencing for horses. Barbed wire should be avoided because there are many opportunities for horses to tear their hide on the barbs. High-tensile wire fences pose a threat to horses because they may become entangled in the strands. The chance of this can be decreased if high-tensile fences are made more visible by placing posts closer together, or hanging ribbons or something else from the wire. Board fences are ideal for horses. Woven wire also works well, particularly with a single board at the top so the horses can easily see the fence. Fences rely on the strength of their posts. Pressure-treated wood should be used when installing wooden fence posts, preferably with a diameter of at least four inches. The bottom of the post should be buried two to three feet into the ground for long-lasting support. Wooden posts and boards can both rot over time, so if your fence is older, check these frequently. Broken boards should be fixed immediately to prevent horses from rubbing against exposed nails. The top of any fence should be at least as high as the withers as the tallest horse in the field, while the bottom should be no more than 1 foot off the ground. Three to five boards or electric strands work best.


Swine require strong fences that are built close to the ground to prevent them from escaping by rooting underneath the fence. Barbed wire along the ground helps prevent rooting. Fences need to be no higher than 54 inches (140cm). As with cattle-working pens, fences around swine confinement units are likely to receive heavy usage. Use heavy materials and sturdy construction for long life and functionality.


Poultry fencing isn’t usually covered in books about keeping chickens, and yet it is a fundamental requirement if you are fencing off an area for your poultry, rather than buying a pre-fabricated run to attach to your chicken coop. Keeping poultry in, isn’t normally as much of a problem as keeping predators out. Separating chickens, ducks or geese usually only needs low fencing. There are exceptions, some light breeds can fly extremely well (Leghorns for example are very flighty) but the average hen can be kept behind a waist high fence and the odd escapee can have a wing clipped. Keeping predators out like this fox though requires much better fencing than is required to keep poultry in. Whilst many people think foxes are similar to dogs, their ability to climb and jump is much similar to a cat, so unless you live on the Isle of Man (where there are no foxes!) then your options really come down to: Electric Poultry netting – Which must not short out on anything such as long grass and is unsuitable to have where children play. It is useful to create secure poultry runs if you have a suitable area though and can be moved around to provide your hens with fresh pasture. A low secure fence with the addition of a ‘Triple Wire’ – an electric wire at the bottom to stop digging, the middle and top to stop climbing. A secure fence that is suitably tall to physically stop predators using chicken wire. To stop a large fox from running up and over a fence, it has to be at least 1.8 M (6ft) high. If you don’t want a fence this high then you can either turn the top outwards, or run a single electric strand along the top where it is at least out of reach of children but I wouldn’t consider a fence that’s lower than about 1.5 M (5ft) where there are foxes. Foxes will dig under a fence if the ground is soft enough. Badgers are very good diggers and can also rip at chicken netting to tear it. The bottom of a poultry fence, should have the wire buried 8-12 inches in the ground and then turned outwards by about 8. The length of wire you bury really depends on the type of soil and how level the ground is. Clay soils are the hardest to dig, sandy soils are very easy, so use some common sense when burying the netting. If it was easy for you to dig, it will be easy for a fox. Ideally put bricks / rubble on top of the turned out wire before covering it back over with soil.


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