How do I build fences for livestock?


Tools for building livestock fencesPasture Fencing: Everyone has their own way of doing it. Every situation is different. No two fences are the same. Whether the project is a short two hours of patching or an extended building project, each needs its fair share of planning! It’s one of my favorite things to do when I need a little time to myself to get something accomplished

If not familiar with cattle operations, one might ask why pasture fences are even necessary. Cattle are ruminant animals, meaning they graze forages, primarily grasses, legumes, and other plants. They spend the majority of their day grazing and ruminating (re-chewing) these forages and so fences help to manage their movements, grazing habits, and prevent overgrazing on areas that are more palatable.

Cross fences are an invaluable resource in livestock and pasture management. Over the years, many industry professionals have looked into the design and types of fencing to be used. Some proponents of natural herdsmanship avoid the use of pasture fencing, in favor of managing livestock under more natural herd mentalities.

For a fencing project of any size, whether it be mending or rebuilding project, detailed planning is required. The following questions are important to figuring out the detail of the fencing project.

  • What is the purpose of the fencing project? Will this project benefit current management practices?
  • Does the fence design complement livestock species, type, and size?
  • Does the fence design fit within a predetermined budget? Will the benefits pay for the costs of the project?

building livestock fences of water ditches creeksWhen considering the fencing project it is important, to consider how the design applies to current and future forage, range, and management practices. Pasture forages are the most important assets of a grazing program. If these forages are not managed properly, pasture quality will suffer. This is especially important to consider with intensive grazing programs, rotational grazing, and range grazing programs. If pasture design is not complementary to the environment, forage conditions can deteriorate, resulting in the need for new stand establishment.

Pasture fencing needs to complement livestock management. Cross fencing and individual pasture management is key to managing livestock facilities. In breeding management programs, livestock separation may be key to breeding, calving schedules. Livestock nutrition is important to manage properly. Pasture must be of adequate size for stocking rates and grazing patterns for different species.

building livestock fences to manage resourcesEvery good fence starts with a solid anchor. Solid corner/anchor posts are vital to a fence’s longevity. Following a solid anchor there are other key parts to fence design to consider:

  • Is fence height sufficient for livestock?
  • Is wire type adequate? Barbed wire, box wire, field fence, electric strand, barbless wire. Some wires may be more dangerous for some livestock species than others.
  • Is wire and/or post spacing adequate for livestock species/size? Smaller livestock need smaller spacing. Calves may crawl through wires with too much spacing. Legs injuries are possible with too little spacing.
  • Is fence design durable for the landscape and terrain? Within one stretch of fence, terrain may change between flat stretches, steep hillsides, water crossings, wooded areas, and swamps. Each may require slight changes in fence specifications.
  • Is fence design durable against pressure from livestock? In areas with increased stock density or smaller widths, livestock pressure will increase upon fences. Wire should be placed between posts and the heaviest pressures (i.e. the inside of an alley or the uphill side of a slope).
measuring distance to build livestock fences

It’s important to measure the distance of your fencing project

Draw out plans for the project. Figure included costs: materials, labor, weather delays, and grazing time loss. Figure in a little extra some unexpected costs that might show up during the project. Is all the necessary equipment on hand? This includes a few pairs of fencing pliers, wire stretchers, post diggers, tamping bars, guide string for placing posts, hammers, steeples, fence clips, and steel-post drivers. Don’t forget everything that will be included in the fence itself: wire, wood posts, steel posts, brace wire, and cement for anchor posts.

Continued fence maintenance is crucial to fence longevity. This includes periodic checking for fallen trees, collected debris after rainfall, and breaks due to wildlife/livestock crossings. As a fence ages, rusting and rotting of materials may require increased maintenance.

building livestock pasture fencesListed below are just a few links to sites/documents on the subject. Your states local extension website likely has available factsheets on fencing design, pasture management, stocking rate and density, as well as fencing specifications.

What have you learned from your fencing experiences? I want to hear your story.

About these ads
About Ryan Goodman (978 Articles)
Ryan Goodman lives in Helena, MT and comes from an Arkansas cattle ranching family. Since growing up on a family cow/calf and stocker-calf operation, he has spent the last several years learning about farming systems across the country. A graduate of Oklahoma State, Ryan is currently working on a Master's degree from the University of Tennessee. He works continuously to share his story of ranch life through community outreach and social media, all while encouraging others in agriculture to do the same.

1 Comment on How do I build fences for livestock?

  1. Although very important, fencing projects can be a real difficult job to tackle. I would just suggest making sure to have the right equipment (e.g. fence puller, fence pliers, etc.) to make the job go as smooth as possible.

    Like

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,876 other followers

%d bloggers like this: