John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Fence Types

Farm Fencing controls the entire operation of one’s livestock undertaking. It is important to understand the uses of different types of fencing and the overall role that fences play on one’s farm. A well designed fence layout will facilitate an efficient farm operation, and will prevent many major headaches down the road.

Fences - Types and Uses

Fencing is arguable the most important part of a farm’s infrastructure. Time spent planning fence lines and gates will pay for itself many times over as the years go by. Among other things, fencing:

  • Protects your livestock from attacks by predators
  • Facilitates livestock handling, movement and control
  • Allows for effective pasture management
  • Contains and separates livestock

There are many styles of fencing. Each has its virtues and deficits.

  • Electric Fencing - By itself, electric fencing is ineffective in preventing predator incursions, and it is less than ideal for heavy wooled livestock such as alpacas. Portable electric fences can be used to create temporary paddocks or to facilitate pasture rotation. Electric fencing can also be used to supplement other types of fences
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  • Barbed Wire Fences - Ok for cattle, barbed wire fencing is a poor choice for fleece animals. Barbed wire may effectively be used to supplement other types of fencing
  • Rail Fences - Esthetically pleasing, rail fences have been traditionally made of split rails or white washed planks. More recently, vinyl replicas of these traditional fences have emerged. Rail fencing does a poor job of preventing predator incursions. This type of fence requires a great deal of maintenance, and due to the spaces between the rails young livestock may be able to escape their holding area.
  • High Tensile Wire Fences - Strong and relatively inexpensive to install, this fence (which originated in Australia/New Zealand) is very effective at containing livestock. Again, due to the space between wire strands, this fencing is not effective at preventing predator incursions, and it can allow newborn livestock to escape. However, in our experience, one or two strands of high tensile wire is an inexpensive way to add height to other types of fence.
  • Woven Wire Field Fencing - Strong and relatively easy to install, woven wire fences are, in our opinion, ideal for most types of livestock. A thirty-six inch woven wire fence can easily be extended to five feet by adding two or three strands of high tensile wire. Common predators can not go through it (bears being the exception). Addition of a strand of barbed wire an inch off the ground will help to deter predators from burrowing under. Alternatively, some advocate a barrier of wire mesh buried an inch or two under the ground around the outside perimeter  The addition of one or more "hot" (e.g. electric) wires at the top can help to deter predators from going over the top. This may be effective against large cats (cougars), although nothing will keep a determined cougar or bear out of your pastures. Many alpaca owners have chosen to invest in no-climb horse fencing, a variation of the less expensive field fencing.

When planning the fence layout there are several things to keep in mind:

  • Gates - There can never be enough gates. Few things are more frustrating than having to walk two hundred yards to get to a piece of trash that is ten feet away …because there is no gate nearby. Invest in good gates that are wide enough to allow passage of farm equipment. Ten feet is generally the smallest recommended. Plan ahead for your gates, and you can set posts for future expansion.
  • Pasture Rotation - Good pastures are a valuable resource for any livestock operation. Pasture rotation can ensure healthy forage with good nutrient content. Studies have shown that a high livestock concentration on smaller paddocks provides for efficient management of pastures. Fencing off seven small paddocks for each group of animals will provide for one week of grazing and six weeks of recovery. There should also be a "sacrifice" area for winter use. This area will be very difficult to keep forage on.
  • Catch Pens and Breeding Areas - Fences should be designed either to provide chutes to run livestock through, or to provide small catch pens.
  • Alleys - A well designed fence plan will include alley ways to facilitate moving livestock from area to area. These should be a minimum of 10 feet wide.

Take time to plan your fences. It will be time well spent. Even with the best of plans, expect to discover things that you wish you had done differently.

 
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