A sturdy and well-built post and rail fence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here we will specifically discuss fencing. Fencing plans again depend upon the type of animal that you are trying to contain. I will try to lay this out in an organized fashion starting with types of fences. I will then try to cover fencing for various farm animals. These animals will include cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and horses. I will not attempt to cover chickens at this time ( other than to say clip their wings and make sure your tightly woven fence is tight against the ground).
Types of Fences
There many various ways to classify fencing. The first way to organize it is electrified versus non-electric. Another way is permanent versus temporary. For the purposes of this article, the focus will center around permanent fencing. Systems can be hybrid with permanent and temporary, but the perimeter fencing should be very solid and permanent (in the opinion of this author).
woven wire fence(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are various type of materials that are used to make fencing. Focusing on the modern versions, there are hog paneling, woven wire, barbed wire, high tensile, polywire, vinyl and board fencing. Board
Roll of barbed wire on a farm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
fencing, woven wire, and hog paneling are suitable for non electric systems. Vinyl may be considered here as well, though animals can lean on the vinyl and pop the rails off. I recommend adding one or two strands of high tensile along the top and bottom of vinyl fencing to prevent the animals from pushing the rails out. Barbed wired, high tensile and polywire are typically electrified. These systems can be non electric if enough horizontal wires are placed to make them visible. Most fencing is, after all, mainly a mental barrier and deterrent.
As for fence posts, the options here vary as well. Vinyl fencing utilizes vertical vinyl posts. Board fencing uses wooden posts. For the wire- type fences, posts materials vary from treated wood to cedar to locusts posts. They can also utilize t posts and even some specialized products like kencove posts.
As a side note when planning a fencing project, it is important to draw out the design in many fashions. Talk to other farmers or fence installers about your project. Describe your setting, animals and goals. Mark out all of the gates that are needed. Gates are needed for entry to the field by the farmer, for equipment and for animals movement.
Cattle may be the easiest animals to contain, as long as they are well fed. The grass is always greener on the other side, so cattle will test fences if better food is available across the fence. I like electrified barbed wire or high tensile. Two to three strands should suffice. The lower strand should be about 24 inches off of the ground and the upper strand at 36 to 30 inches. I like a wire in the middle as well. Wooden fence posts should be placed at no more than 16 feet in order ro have better visibility. Some places suggest further spacing, but I have found that our fence is great with posts every 16 feet. Make certain to keep weeds off of the fence, otherwise a short will be created and it won’t take long for the cattle to figure out that the fence is off. I suggest placing the wires on the outside of the fence posts, so that animals can graze around the base of the fencing. This gives you more grazing space and less weed wacking. Other options for cattle include board fence, vinyl and woven wire. I would add a top strand of barbed wire or electrified high tensile at the tops of the 48 inch woven wire.
Closeup of a smooth wire fence without barbs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Goats are more of a challenge due to their inquisitive nature. Woven wire works very well for goats. The can be deterred by electric fencing as well, but the fence must be solid and provide an adequate shock to keep them in. Board fencing and vinyl fencing tend to leave larger gaps that the goats can get through or around. These gaps can be closed using electric barbed wire or high tensile.
Barbed wire fence in west Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sheep are basically like goats in their needs for fencing. It is not their stubborn nor inquisitive nature that make them hard to fence. The problem with them lies in the thick wool coat. This prevents them from perceiving the chock of an electric fence. Woven wire seems to be the best for sheep, though multiple high tensile strands can works as well. The strands should be placed at 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, and 48 inches from the ground on up.
vinyl fence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Horses love to lean on fences. They also like to hang their heads over the fence, looking for food to graze upon. They can be kept in with just about any fencing system. Traditional horse people tend to prefer either board fence or vinyl fencing foe aesthetic purposes. One major advantage to these is the decrease in injury potential. Barbed wire and high tensile work well with horses, but can cause serious injury if the horse gets a leg tangled up in the strands. Fence posts should be placed no further apart than 16 feet, as the visibility goes down for a horse after that point.
Again, I am going from what I have read, not what I have done. I have read that pigs can be easily trained to electric fencing. Their snouts are very sensitive. In fact, they are very conducive to rotational grazing, but be careful where you leave the gates. It seems that pigs have a good memory, so much that they are reluctant to cross where an electric strand previously stood. The bottom wire is generally set at 5 or 6 inches and the top wire at 10 or 12 inches. They will train quickly according to several sources that I discovered. There are other options as well. Hog paneling is meant for pigs (hence the name….). Premier Supplies makes several electric netting options for hogs as well.
I hope that this article has been helpful. I know that it just touched the surface of a very complex issue. This is meant to be something to stimulate thought and provide a basis to start. Good luck and keep raising your homestead, taking more control of what you eat and what you do.
We recently built a fence, which we had designed. Our intent was to keep costs low, yet be able to try to contain all of the above animals. The fence that we elected is 6 strand of high tensile, smooth wire fencing. We placed three large gates to move animals and equipment in and out of fields. We also placed two other 4 foot “man gates” in other locations for easier access to the fields. The strands are laid out at 5 inches, 10 inches, 16 inches, 24 inches, 30 inches, and 48 inches. We electrified the top strand, the third strand down and the second lowest strand. We went with this number of strands in order to have a sturdy fence that works even without being electrified. It seems to be working well, though we only have cattle so far.