Fence Advice

IMG_6410

When we first started improving our farm I had no intention of farming as a vocation.  My plan was to live here after I retired and I just wanted the place to look nice.  I hadn’t yet begun my journey toward sustainability, so there are many things I’d do differently if I were doing them now.

When I was growing up there was a farm in our county that had black board fences around their pastures.  I admired those fences and when time came for us to replace the dilapidated fences on this farm I hired a someone to build board fences and someone else to pain them black.  I was still commuting and working crazy long hours so doing it myself wasn’t an option, even if I had the necessary skills (and I didn’t).

At the time the fences were intended to hold nothing other than two horses, one belonging to our daughter and the other to her friend.  I had no intention of owning goats, cows or pigs (and probably would’ve scoffed at the notion).

The board fences are pretty.  But that is the nearly the only thing they have going for them, and there are plenty of disadvantages (I now know).  They’re expensive to build and maintain.  Every year I have to repair or replace boards that have warped or broken.  Every year I have to touch up the paint.  They’re not suitable for containing goats, so we had to go back and add hot wires and a charger.

I know some folks who read this blog are in the planning stages of homesteading.  So here’s some advice for y’all.

Think practically about your fencing.  Keep in mind when you’re designing it that your plans may change. Make sure your fences are suitable for any species of livestock you might ultimately keep. So, for example, if you might get into raising pastured pigs, either fence in some wooded areas or design the fence so that you can easily do so later.  Consider the time and cost involved in maintenance.  You don’t want it to be an ugly eyesore, but looks should not be your primary consideration. Keep in mind that you’ll need to keep the fence line cut (unless you’re planning to use Roundup along the fence line–which I highly discourage). One advantage of board fencing or high tensile wire versus woven wire fencing is that you can easily trim under the fence with a weedeater.  When you put in your waterers, keep in mind that the livestock will congregate there. Choose a high spot if possible.  And if you want to do rotational grazing, put the waterer where it can be used in multiple paddocks if necessary. Ideally you’d like to be able to drive a tractor along both sides of the fence line, even though that won’t always be possible.  Keep in mind that you will want your fence to keep animals out as well as in.

For what it’s worth…

Advertisements

32 comments on “Fence Advice

  1. Joanna says:

    We were only talking about the same topic yesterday – a seasonal thing perhaps? Our fence will be to keep wild boar (wild hogs) OUT! Rather a challenge. Our alpacas don’t really challenge fences, except Spring when they just want to get out on the grass and the grass isn’t quite ready yet. Goats on the other hand I understand are definitely more challenging than our alpacas.

    Like

  2. shoreacres says:

    My folks learned somewhat the same lessons with their bit of young “livestock.” When I still was a toddler, they surrounded our yard a heavy-duty wire fencing — like this, minus the wood. It was easy to install, secure, and attractive enough.

    All was well, until my mother looked out and saw me on the other side of the fence. The toddler had learned to climb, and that fence might as well have been marked with signs saying “this way out.”

    It’s amazing how quickly those memories came back when I read, “Keep in mind when you’re designing it that your plans may change. Make sure your fences are suitable for any species of livestock you might ultimately keep.” 🙂

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m smiling, remembering when our children were in the fearless-toddlers-who-will-climb-anything phase. It’s a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack.

      Like

  3. BeeHappee says:

    Well, your black fancy fence is looking rather pretty. 🙂
    Thanks for the advice, Bill.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It doesn’t look as good up close. 🙂
      But honestly I’m pleased with how it looks. It’s just that it’s so impractical and aggravating. I wouldn’t do it again.

      Like

  4. Farmgirl says:

    Isn’t it funny to think of the unexpected turns our lives have made? Ten years ago we certainly wouldn’t have guessed this would be our life (though we probably would have been rather pleased) and Doug would certainly have scoffed at the idea of building fences! Those black fences are beautiful though. 🙂

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’s amazing, shocking even, how much our lives have changed in the last ten years. All for the better I think. May our next decade (and yours) be as interesting. 🙂

      Like

  5. Bill, I have learned there are two kinds of fences. One is the kind the you are discussing here in this post and is designed to keep animals in confined areas. The other is as Joanna indicates to keep animals out. During my youth years on the farm my fence exposure was to keep animals in the pastures and barn yard areas. Now during my gardening years the fence issues have turned toward keeping wild animals out. It appears to me the latter challenge to keep animals out is a much more difficult task than what I first thought. At least when trying to keep animals confined there’s a choice of what kind of animals are being confined but in the case of wild animals the problems are much different. Wild animals can fly, climb, dig, or jump over fences with great tenacity and determination. I have learned much about fencing and have much to learn about critter control. Another determination that I’ve come to understand is that fences have never ending maintenance. Birds love to sit on the fences after eating Mulberries and plant fertilized Mulberry seed all along the fence rows. Here in Nebraska the soil and make up must be perfect for Mulberry trees because practically everywhere a bird alleviates themselves a Mulberry tree starts to grow. I call them Nebraska’s state noxious weed tree.

    Have a great fencing day.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      There were plenty of mulberry trees around here when I was growing up, but none now. I think people were happy to eradicate them. But aside from producing delicious fruit, they’re supposed to be great near chicken coops or in pig pastures, as the animals like to eat the fallen fruit. I actually bought one a few years ago and planted it but it didn’t make it. I may try again. And of course I know not to plant it anywhere near anything I don’t want covered in mulberries!

      Like

  6. avwalters says:

    Ah, the evolution of the fence. Initially, we planned for cedar fence posts. They’re rot resistant and they look nice. Around here, they’re not much more than heavy-duty T posts. But we realized that, though our basic plans are in place–our specifics are still moving target. What really brought that home was the bears.

    Folks up the road kept bees last year. After a few weeks, an electric fence went up around the hives. The bears had got in and smashed some hives. Unless you want to build a fortress stockade, to keep the bears out, you need an electric fence. That changed everything. We’re now considering going entirely with t-posts and a three wire perimeter. The metal posts are easier to remove and reuse, which gives us an added level of flexibility. Visually, it might not be the look we first imagined, but it’s much closer to our needs.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      You make two good points that I should have included in my advice. If possible, fences should be built to be moveable if need be (as t-posts are). And also, if possible, the fence should be capable of being energized.

      I’m sure you’ve thought of this already but last year when I needed t-posts I put an ad up on Craigslist and was able to get hundreds of them very cheaply from a farmer who had replaced a t-post and wire fence with a post and wire fence. Saved me a bundle.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue says:

    Great advice. It’s a shame what we have to go through to get so smart………
    😀

    Like

  8. I too have the remnants of board fences my parents put in place when they retired after farming – going for the “estate” look or something I guess. Every year, they look worse – boards fall off or get knocked off by the deer, posts start to lean, etc. The fences that have endured best are the post and wire ones in the fields. Even they, after 20 or more years could use some maintenance here and there. LIke you back when your lovely black fences were put in, I don’t have the time or ability to do any significant work on fences, so I hire that work out. Costs a bunch, too. My tip – build higher than you think you need (I’m talking wire,again). You seldom, except for aesthetics, need a fence to be lower than you made it, and if you build high enough, you might keep the deer out.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      As Ethan would say, it’s been a hard lesson learned. I wanted those fences because of how they looked. I didn’t consider anything else. If I had it to do over again we wouldn’t build them. I’d put in post and wire (high tensile or woven) fences.

      Like

  9. Well you know this topic is hot for us right now. Keeping critters in is easy compared to keeping them out. We are in the middle of caging the periphery trees this week. Paddock/Deer fencing is next on the agenda. Have you any tips on stretching woven wire fences tight? This will be a first for us.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      First of all, I’m not sure it’s possible to build a fence that will keep deer out, unless it’s VERY tall. My understanding is that the extension service here is now recommending 8 foot tall fences that are angled. Very expensive.

      We used wire stretchers when I put up fences growing up. I hired someone to build the fences we have now and I don’t know how they stretched the wire. Sorry (and good luck).

      Like

  10. I’ve been told that deer won’t jump over a fence that they can’t see what’s on the other side. I’m building a six foot wooden fence from a fencing company that gives away tear out fencing panels made of cedar and hoping the information that I have is true. Digging critters and flying birds are a bit more challenging to control. 🙂

    Like

    • I’ve heard the same thing Dave- I know someone who lined their existing wire fence with tarp material – just 4 ft high, but all the way round.Just on their veg garden, and apparently worked like a charm. Good luck with yours.

      Like

    • Bill says:

      That makes sense Dave. Double fences work too, because deer don’t have good depth perception. We use 4 foot mesh electric fences and amazingly they’ve worked. Even though the deer can easily jump them, they don’t. Probably they’re afraid of them. I hope they stay that way.

      Like

  11. We have a five-foot fence around our small garden but have seven-foot poles. We’ve strung two strands of single wire above the fence. It keeps the deer out. –Curt

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That’s good. From what I’ve seen you have enough deer there to wipe a garden out quickly.

      Like

      • In minutes, I am sure, if Peggy’s flowers are any indication. This year she is featuring Foxglove. It is actually poisonous enough the deer leave it alone.

        Darn, now you’ve brought up wildlife, I have to go chase away the Flicker that seems dedicated to pounding its way into out house. 🙂 –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

  12. EllaDee says:

    What a bucolic photograph 🙂 Not having acreage fencing isn’t such an issue although we like to keep the wallabies out of our garden. Our fences are a mish-mash, preexisting but effective enough. But it’s a similar lesson, that people say to live somewhere for a year before making changes. We rarely do anything in a hurry and have been fortunate to be able to look back at early ideas and be happy we didn’t pursue them. I only have one piece of advice, which relates to fences as well. If you’re going for an option and its only merit is it’s less expensive, don’t. We’ve done it on a couple of occasions only to later swap it out for what we really wanted in the first place.

    Like

  13. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Every: ) time I see the photo of your painted board fence, I’m immediately transported back to when I was a child… There was a magical place, with miles of painted board fence, called Winfield Farms, just north of Oshawa; where a fiesty little horse called Northern Dancer lived and (right up until a few years ago): his lineage carried on for decades. Although the main buildings still survive, the City of Oshawa has swallowed up that magical farm with the lovely herds of dancing animals so many horse crazy kids used to dream about…
    I did have to laugh though, when my email announced that you’d written “a new post” about Fences; ) Thanks for the bittersweet memories. Also glad to hear your caution about using roundup. I’ve always had my suspicions, but there is accumulating evidence on its deleterious effect on the microscopic life in the soil.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      When we first returned to the farm I innocently told my wife that I planned to spray Roundup on the fence lines. I had bought into the claim that it was harmless. She gently recommended that I not do that (and I followed her suggestion). The research that is coming out lately seems to confirm her concerns.

      Like

  14. farmerkhaiti says:

    If I was to do over, I would have saved up a ton of money and invested in cattle panels -as Gene Logsdon recommended in (I think) The Contrary Farmer- for the entire perimeter of our 39 acres. Portable, strong, high enough, pretty indestructible, except of course if a tree lands on them. But- they still don’t always keep pigs in, so is there a perfect fence? I do love the look of a board fence though!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I sure wish we had a large supply of cattle panels on hand. They’re useful for so many things. Oh well, hindsight is always perfect (and, as you suggest, fences never are).

      Like

Leave a Reply

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