Fencing is an investment in your property, so making the right choice is critical
Most producers have heard the expression “good fences make good neighbors.” Good fence is an investment, but the monetary output, plus the number of styles and the installation considerations can be overwhelming.
Barbed wire fence: Barbed wire fencing used to be the fence of choice for many operations, especially for cattle. It is a bit less popular today, due to some safer and more affordable options on the market but is still a common style.
According to the Nobel Research Institute, five to six strands of barbed wire are adequate to keep cattle restrained for interior or exterior fences. More strands (eight to 10) can be used at closer intervals to contain goats. Barbed wire fences are fast and economical to install. A disadvantage is horse owners typically do not like barbed wire fences for fear of the animal being entangled and injured.
Woven wire or field fence: Woven wire is a fairly expensive fencing style, and can be a rather labor intensive to install. However, it is often the material of choice for perimeter fences, or for animals like horses, goats or sheep. To add an additional layer of security, the Noble Research Institute recommended producers use one to two strands of barbed wire or electric fence at the top of the woven fence to deter animals from trying to reach over the top of the fence and pushing it down.
Electric fence: Electric fence is an exceedingly popular fencing option due to its convenience and low cost compared to other fencing materials. It can be installed as temporary or permanent fence. Mark Green, lead resource conservationist at the Natural Resource Conservation Service Springfield, Mo., Field Office, noted the use of permanent electric fence is growing, especially when splitting up a farm into multiple paddocks for a rotational grazing system.
“I personally would not install anything but electric fence for interior fences and I was raised to build a barbed wire fence,” Green said.
Pipe and cable fence: This is a fairly expensive fencing option, and is less common than barbed wire, woven wire or electric fence. Some producers may still opt for these materials, though, depending on what type of animals they are raising or what that fence is being used for. Pipe fences are preferred in crowding situations, such as in corrals or working pens. Horse enthusiasts and professionals suggest pipe fences are easier for horses to see and, thus, prevent injury.
Fencing assistance: Even if a producer selects one of the cheaper material options, fencing of any kind is still a sizeable investment. Fortunately for area producers, there are cost assistance programs available through the NRCS for certain grazing programs.
The federal funded Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) administered by the USDA-NRCS provides cost assistance for interior fencing in two situations: rotational grazing system cross-fencing, and fencing to exclude livestock from sensitive areas such as ponds, streams, woodland, etc.
Green noted there is no assistance for fencing to keep livestock on the property. He encouraged producers to contact their local office about the programs.
There are numerous installation considerations to bear in mind when building fence, but proper research and preparation can help the process go smoothly. Think about what livestock will be corralled within the fence – breed and species research will help determine what type of materials will work best. Ensuring the quality, proper size and proper installation of materials used to construct the fence goes a long way.