Field Fencing, Part 1: Planning

 

mff_fence_planning

Figure 1. Shape of fenced area affects quantity of fencing material needed.

The best fencing for family farm use is woven-wire fencing.   Wood fencing is possible where a field full of hardwood trees is being cleared and a sawmill is available for turning felled trees into fencing lumber.  Otherwise, it’s’ just a terrible waste of money.  If you want a wooden fence look, save it for around the house or along the driveway–the animals don’t need it.  Barbed wire is effective only for large animals on very large pastures (see point 2 below) and, to be honest, electric fencing is undesirable for a family farm unless you want your farm to feel like an animal prison.  Woven wire is most effective–for all needs–and most attractive for the family farm.  Best of all, it gives the farm owner peace of mind knowing that the animals will be kept in–which barbed wire and electric fencing rarely do.

Before getting into fencing materials, some basic planning issues need to be considered:

1.  Shape Matters

The size and shape of a field to be fenced determines the cost of fencing material.  A square field, for example, is cheaper to fence than a rectangular field of the same size (figure 1).  A rectangular 9 acre field (300′ x 1200′) requires 3000 ft. of fencing.  That same amount of fencing could serve a 14 acre square field (750′ x 750′).  So, it pays to stay square, if possible.

2.  Small Areas Aren’t Cheaper

The smaller a field is the more the animals will test the fence and try to get out–especially if pasture grass becomes scarce.    So, if you have only a little bit of cash available for fencing and think that the best way to use it is to fence in a small pen for your animals, that may appear cheaper at first, but if that fence is to work, it will need to be built with more fence posts for increased strength and more maintenance and repairs are going to be needed.  If possible, make the fields large enough so that the animals can be content therein.

3.  A Perimeter Fence is the  Best Beginning

Third, in building a permanent fence, it’s better to provide a solid perimeter fence around your farm inside of which you can do anything you like , rather than build a number of separate permanent pens–unless you’re absolutely sure they’re all going to be permanent.  You can always put up smaller temporary divisions within a large strong perimeter farm fence, allowing livestock or dogs to roam the farm knowing the borders are fenced in.

 

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