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Fences And Posts, Nuts And Bolts: Picking The Right Fencing 

With so many options available, choosing the right fencing option for your stock can be an intimidating task. What type of animal you keep, how much you’re willing to budget for the initial expense and repairs, and even your region’s climate and landscape are all important considerations for both the first-time and long-term purchaser. Yet if you focus on animal behaviour and needs first, it’s much easier to pare down your options and know what your basic requirements are. Choosing the wrong kind of fencing can lead to damage to your property as well as lost or even injured animals, so staying aware of these issues and buying the right fencing can save you time, money, and stress for long into the future.

Initial Considerations

Before considering the type of fencing you require for your animals, the first step is to determine what you need for yourself, your equipment, and any future uses. After all, it’s pointless to work out the minimum gate width for keeping goats if you know you’ll need a much wider gate for your tractor. Equipment can be the most expensive part of keeping animals, and ensuring that you don’t have to take advantage of your insurance can keep costs down and returns - either financial or emotional - high. Fencing is only one component of the perfect area for your animals, and work is difficult to do once both the fences and animals are installed, so make sure that areas are leveled when necessary, any stationary equipment is in the correct place and in good working order, and there aren’t any potholes or other problems which may damage either your equipment or your animals.

Goats And Sheep

While these animals have different needs, they both begin with a simple requirement: fencing at least four feet high with higher posts, and enough strength to withstand the way both species will lean and scratch themselves on non-electric fencing. Neither is likely to jump fences, even when they could theoretically leap higher than four feet, but goats will sometimes climb certain types of fencing - only you know whether your animal tends to climb, but this can be discouraged by using electric fencing, or stringing an electric line along the top of the fence posts. Fencing width is also a critical consideration, since both species can easily trap their heads (particularly goats, due to their horns). A trapped animal is in serious danger, as even if it stays calm and doesn’t injure itself it will still be easy prey for predators. At the very least, animals will often damage the fencing if trapped, which can be an expensive proposition.

Cattle

The main concern for cattle fencing is the sheer amount of pressure that these massive animals can create simply by scratching themselves. If your fencing won’t stand up to a cow with an itch, it really won’t be able to handle the rare occasion when cattle become trapped or otherwise intentionally try to break through the fencing. This damage isn’t always enough to let your animals go wandering, but over time it can warp and break fencing and posts, which is an expensive irritant at best and a danger at worst. In light of this, ensure that your fencing has the proper number of strands (five is recommended) to properly displace weight, and consider a deterrent such as electricity, either throughout the entire fence or as a single strand which will create a shock if your cattle lean against it. Fencing should also be done in straight lines and 90 degree angles in order to reduce the likelihood of a trapped cow, and top and bottom strands should be high and low enough to discourage over-the-fence grazing or your cattle tangling their legs in the bottom strand.

Horses

Like cows, the sheer weight of your horse (or even pony) can cause damage to your fencing even when they’re simply going about their daily business. However, there are certain issues which are unique to keeping horses, and should be carefully considered. One of the reasons why traditional plank-and-post fencing continues to be so popular for horses is because their tendency to paw, kick, and otherwise explore the perimeter can result in them becoming dangerously tangled or caught in wire fencing. However, this problem can be prevented by ensuring that all posts are firmly planted and the wire is kept taut (it may need re-tightening throughout the year, as any slack will prove dangerous). Electric wiring, even in the form of a single strand, will also ensure that your horse respects the fence and does not try to paw at it excessively. The right fence height will vary depending on the breed of horse and its behaviour - a tall pony with a jailbreak jumping mentality will need a higher fence than a docile draft horse who could hardly leap a log.