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Types of Fencing

Updated on September 9, 2013

Plank fencing

Last year's 4H calf
Last year's 4H calf

Livestock Fencing

Are you new to the farming business? Looking to start a small hobby farm, but are unsure of the fences you need to build? Let me help!

It doesn’t matter what animals you wish to raise, you will need some sort of fences to contain them. Some types are more all-purpose, while others are more specific to certain animals. The size of your pen also will determine the best type of fencing to use.

Barbed wire – this is best as a perimeter fence around a large area, such as a field. It is sufficient to contain cows and horses in a smaller area as well, but do not have more than a few animals in a small pen. We have two horses in an area approximately 140 feet by 70 feet...which is good for them, but I wouldn’t add more. Barbed wire will not contain pigs, sheep, goats or miniature versions of any animal...including horses and cows. It is also not advisable to use barbed wire where llamas and alpacas will be kept, as their fleece can easily become entangled in the wire. Barbed wire comes in quarter mile rolls and is available in different grades and thicknesses.

Page/mesh wire – this type of wire is much more suited to a larger variety of animals. It will contain pigs, sheep, goats, horses, cows, alpacas, llamas and miniature versions of these as well. As added security, a strand of barbed wire may be placed above the page wire. This will deter most predators, but not all. If you live in an area where cougars and bears are a problem, additional steps may have to be taken.

Pole fencing – this type of fencing is mainly decorative and looks very nice along a driveway. It is sufficient to deter horses, but personally I wouldn’t take a chance at containing any other animals with it.

Planks – this is the best fencing for corrals and smaller pens. Spacing the rows approximately nine inches apart will ensure calves cannot get through. The space from the ground to the first row should be no more than nine inches as well. We used 2X8’s for ours and it has worked well. Our only mishap was our first 4-H steer breaking through the top two when our German Shepherd went after him.

Chain link – this is recommended for alpacas, llamas and other fleece animals, but not entirely necessary. It is more pricey than page wire, and it would cost a small fortune to fence even a few acres. It is however, highly recommended for a dog run as it will not yield to a big dog jumping against it. It will, however have to be installed properly.

Electric or Hot – this is the ideal fencing for temporary grazing areas for horses and cattle. It is simple to move around, and can be installed anywhere thanks to the invention of the solar panel. Many farmers use it to control the areas animals graze. Instead of allowing free reign, they fence off an area in a pasture to allow the next section to grow. As the grass is eaten, the animals get moved to the next section to allow the first to grow again.

Chicken wire – this is good for poultry, but not where there is a risk of large dogs. A better option for a chicken or turkey pen is stucco wire, which is much stronger. A row of chicken wire could be placed near the bottom of the pen to prevent chicks from escaping, but should not be the sole source of protection. It does work well for chicken tractors however.

Buffalo fencing – this is the ideal fencing to use for bison or other big game such as elk. It is much stronger, and comes in a wider roll. Buffalo fences are typically higher than those for cattle, horses or other livestock.

These are the most common types of fencing. One thing to also remember when planning your fences is the intended use, as well as how many openings you will need. We put in a pen for our horses, and made the mistake of only installing one gate. Any size pen should have at least two gates, one at either end. Also be sure the gate is big enough to get your truck or tractor through. Removing gate posts to get equipment through is not an easy task.

If you are a first time fence builder, there are resources on your regional agriculture website. The best resource is to enlist the help and expertise of a veteran farmer. They are usually the ones who can tell you what works best.

Books on fences


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