Do You Know Livestock Fence? You Do Now.
Have you bought a new ranch? Have you decided to drop some livestock on your existing parcel of property? Well whichever one your doing you have found the right place. I remember when I was growing up I had no idea how much actually went into getting a ranch set up so you can be in a better position to be profitable. Keep reading and we’ll start with one of the first things you’ll probably want to do and that’s getting your fencing in place.
What kind of posts should I use?
This depends on you, I personally like wood posts concreted in the ground for cattle. Now there are a large number of people who love to use T-Posts and there is nothing wrong with that. The next question that tends to come up is how to measure t-posts for length. Now I did a quick Google search on this and wasn’t able to find much of any information on this. Some people think they measure from the flanges on the bottom of the t-post and some think it’s measured top to bottom. Well here I’ll answer that question. A t-posts length is measured from top of the post to the very bottom of the post. So, what length of post should you use? Well I prefer to use 8 foot posts buried 3 feet in the ground. This gives me 5 feet above ground to run my barbed wire. Now this is personal preference. Some people want their fence at 6 feet tall or 4 feet tall.
Benefits of each post type
Now your probably wondering why should I choose one post over another? Again, this comes down to personal preference and use. T-Posts can be great to use for many purposes. They can be driven into the ground and can hold very well for a long period of time. Wood posts tend to rot due to the moisture in the ground. When that happens those posts have to be replaced which can be a real pain. So to sum it up here is a break down of the benefits of each type:
- T-Post Benefits
- Can be stronger than wood posts
- Won’t rot due to elements
- T-Post Drawbacks
- While stronger they can be dangerous to livestock
- Can rust and eventually break leaving a rusted piece of metal sticking out of the ground
- Can be very dangerous if horses rear up and land on them.
- Wood Post Benefits
- Can be much safer for livestock than t-posts
- Typically they won’t bend.
- Wood Post Drawbacks
- They can rot due to moisture in the ground
- Can be more expensive than t-posts
As you can see each one has its benefits and drawbacks. Granted this is only a handful of the benefits and drawbacks but it’s enough to give you a general idea.
So, have you decided which post to use? Great! Now lets dig into the type of fencing that is appropriate for each type of livestock.
There are a ton of fencing available for horses from the no-climb fencing to barbed wire so it can be a little confusing to figure out which type is best. Horses as very accident prone animals. I know a few people who have said if they knew how sensitive horses were they never would have bought any. This can be true but having proper fencing can save you a ton of money and headaches. So what kind of fencing should you use? Well for horses I would avoid barbed wire at all costs. They sometimes like to rub their hind quarters against the fence and I personally wouldn’t want barbed wire cutting them up. They can also get their feet caught up in it which can cause a lot of damage and in some cases result in having to put that horse down. Straight Wire is very popular for horses because it minimizes a lot of those risks. Typically for horses I will use 4 strands of straight wire with my posts 10 feet apart. Halfway between the posts I’ll use a fence stay which can either be metal or wood. I’ve found that just cutting some branches off of a nearby tree can work great for fence stays. Using straight wire is much easier to work with since the risk of you cutting yourself and having to deal with tetanus. Remember: stretching any kind of wire can be dangerous if it breaks. Please be careful no matter what kind of fence you decide to use.
Cattle aren’t nearly as accident prone as horses can be so fence selection can be much easier. I still use the same distance between posts of 10 feet and then use stays at 5 foot intervals. But in this case you can easily use barbed wire. There are a number of different types of barbed wire so we’ll cover those in a little bit. Typically for cattle most people use either 5 strand or 4 strand (4 pieces of wire or 5 pieces of wire). You especially want to make sure that you use barbed wire on the very bottom strand to help lower the risk of predators getting through your fence. It is also pretty common for people to use hot wire (Electric Fence) for the very top strand. Cattle will test a fence to see if they can get through it and the use of hot wire can show them very quickly that they don’t want to push on it.
So As I said there are a number of types of barbed wire. Which one you choose is mostly up to you but let’s go through them real quick so you have an idea of what they are.
Types of Barbed Wire
Typically barbed wire is made with a high quality, low carbon steel wire in a automatic twist machine. There are three common twist types that are in use today. These are:
- Single Twist barbed Wire
- Double Twist Barbed Wire
- Traditional Twist Barbed Wire
So Let’s start at the top
Single Twist barbed Wire
Single barbed wire is a kind of security fence with sharp edges and high-tensile wire. It is normally made out of galvanized steel wire, low carbon steel wire, stainless steel wire, and PVC coated iron wire in various colors. The barbs on this type of wire are typically 1.96” to 5.90” apart with a length of 3 to 4 inches.
Applications: This type of wire has been used widely in military, prison, government buildings or other high security applications. Some people do use it for society or home fencing.
Double Twist Barbed Wire
This type of fencing has two wires twisted together with barbs attached. Normally this type is attached to wooden fence posts using a fence staple or curved nail. Because of the two wires this type of fencing can be much safer than single barbed wire. The materials this type of wire can be created from is hot-dipped galvanized wire, electro-galvanized wire, or PVC coated wire. The barbs are normally spaced 3” to 6” apart. The wire diameter ranges from 1mm to 3.5 mm and it is a great selection for cattle and for the top wire of a traditional stock fence. It is also suitable for farm fencing.
Traditional Barbed Wire
This type of barbed wire is generally made from a low carbon steel wire or galvanized wire with the twisting being done by barbed wire machines. Compared to the previous two types, this fence is more generally used for security. It is made from low carbon steel wire, PVC coated wire, zinc coated wire, or iron wire. It has a number of applications that can be beneficial such as land fencing and protection, animal cages, home and business security fence and it can be used a fencing with chain link or welded wire mesh fence. There are a number of benefits to this type of wire such as it doesn’t need to be stretched when it’s installed and the barbs are fixed between the wires.
Now on to the last topic and that’s hog fencing. This one is actually pretty simple to deal with for the simple face you can use almost anything that is strong enough. Just remember pigs are very strong animals. So, I personally use corral panels that are concreted in the ground and use no climb fence on the outside of the panels. This actually works pretty well and in many cases can be made from spare materials you may have around the ranch. But, you can actually use barbed wire if you decide that’s a good idea for yourself. With this you typically would use a traditional wire with posts 10 feet apart and stays at 5 foot increments. This also depends on the hog since some hogs will push on fencing a lot while others will not. In this use case it’s a good idea to keep the fence about 5 feet high. T-Posts can be great for use here but you have to keep an eye on them since hogs will rub against them and can sometimes bend them. Obviously for piglets you would want to keep them in something other than barbed wire since they can, and in many cases, will slip through the barbed wire and take off.
So now that you have an idea of what type of fence to use and what you’ll need there is one more topic that we will end up going over in more detail in a later post but that is stretching your new fence.
Stretching Barbed Wire Fence
Barbed wire fence is made by stringing rows of barbed wire between fence posts. Each row is hung individually and to make that fence effective the wire has to be stretched. A loose barbed wire fence can be dangerous to any livestock that are supposed to be penned up. Each strand of wire is stretched as it is hung and not all at the end. Because this is a quick overview you won’t see step by step instructions. I’ll either do that in a later post or as a video on our YouTube Channel. As a general overview though, you start in the corner of the fence at a brace assembly that you put into place. Then as each strand is ran you stretch the wire using a come-along or other mechanism. You attach one end of the wire to your bracing post then the other end to either your corner brace or another bracing post. Then from this point you use the come-along to stretch the wire until it’s tight. Once the wire is stretched you then attach it to the posts in between your two bracing posts. Then continue on repeating this process until you have your fence erected. You always want to start with the top strand and work your way down. Any strands that need to be added to the fence should be added to the middle post of a corner assembly or brace assembly and stretched with the com-along before it is secured to the brace post so it doesn’t make a weak spot in the fence.
I hope this article at least gives you a high level, general overview of the type of fence you want to install for your livestock. I will be writing a detailed post on how to stretch barbed wire within the next few days but for now I hope this helps.
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