Barbed wire is a simple and cost-effective livestock fencing solution. But what many farmers may not realize is that not all barbed wire is equal. A quick trip to the farm store will reveal a number of different options, ranging from different metals to different gauges of barbed wire.
For some, these options pose more questions–leaving farmers unsure of which wire to choose.
When it comes to barbed wire–here’s what you need to know: the key differences are in the gauge or size of the wire and the carbon content in the composition of the steel.
Let’s take a closer look at how 12.5-gauge low carbon barbed wire measures up to 14-gauge high tensile barbed wire.
What is Barbed Wire?
Barbed wire is a material for perimeters and certain types of livestock. It features zinc-coated wire with barbs–or twisted protrusions – that deter animals from climbing or pushing through the fence line.
It’s a lower-cost alternative to electric or woven field fencing. While barbed wire is often used as a standalone fencing material on farms, you’ll also find this wire used as a topper for woven fences or as a reinforcement to prevent climbing in commercial and military security applications.
How Wire Strength is Determined
There are two key factors that determine how strong or durable a wire product is. The first is the gauge – this number measures the size of the wire. What you need to know is that a higher number means a smaller diameter, so 14-gauge barbed wire is thinner and lighter than 12.5-gauge barbed wire.
In addition to the size of the wire, there are also key differences in the composition of the wire. Specifically, the carbon content in the metal. A low carbon content typically means that the steel is pliable and easy to stretch while a high carbon content is associated with strength.
To better understand how surface area and carbon content affect the strength and durability of wire fencing, we use American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) ratings. Using controlled, repeated tests, each material is provided a break-strength rating that roughly translates to how much force it takes to break the wire. These ratings can help you quickly determine which fencing materials are appropriate for your needs.
Barbed wire comes in two different key varieties–low-carbon and high-tensile. The majority of barbed wire found in agriculture applications is made from low-carbon steel, providing a strong but supple material known for its flexibility and resistance to breakage.
By contrast, high-tensile wire contains more
This is the most common gauge of barbed wire found on farms. It’s suitable for most animals, offering up to 1,000 pounds of break-strength. This classic-style barbed wire features a low carbon content that makes the wire easy to work with.
Typical barbed wire fencing, like the 12.5-gauge barbed wire designed and sold by Red Brand, features a double-strand reverse twist design made from high-quality, low-carbon steel. This is a good choice for many kinds of livestock.
We recommend the two-point Defender barbed wire for large-area confinement where cattle, bison, or hogs have plenty of room to roam. For tighter areas of confinement, the four-point Ruthless design offers a little more reinforcement.
Choose 12.5-gauge low carbon wire to create sturdy, durable perimeter fencing solutions for cattle, bison, or hogs. This type of fencing features a flexible wire that is easy to work with, offering a little stretch that bulks up the durability of the fence. The stretch ensures that the wires are less likely to break when an animal comes into contact with the fence–which can be effective for preventing fence failure.
Typical 12.5-gauge barbed wire is made from zinc-coated low-carbon steel. It’s durable enough to provide a sturdy perimeter fence reinforced with sharp barbs spaced every four-to-five inches apart and does not require complex tensioning.
High-tensile barbed wire appeals to some farmers due to its increased break strength, offering up to 1,600 lbs. of resistance. The high carbon content of the steel provides inherent strength. The wire is also thinner and lighter than its low carbon counterpart, which means it holds up well with fewer t-posts.
When 14-gauge wire is used on the farm, it’s made from high-tensile steel, which allows for a lighter, but stronger wire that offsets the thinner gauge. This wire makes a good choice for perimeter fencing to keep wildlife out and interior fencing to keep livestock like cattle contained.
While thinner and lighter than traditional barbed wire, 14-gauge high tensile wire can provide more strength and durability when properly tensioned. This type of wire fence provides up to 1,600 pounds of impact strength compared to the 1,000 pounds that double-strand 12.5-gauge barbed wire offers.
High-tensile wire requires proper tension and can be more difficult to install and maintain. While it does provide a stronger barrier in terms of force-per-square-inch, it’s also far less flexible. This means an impact from an animal is much more likely to down a high-tensile fence line, even if the fence can ultimately withstand greater force, causing the potential for catastrophic fence failure and serious injury from cut wires.
Choosing the right fencing material requires a careful assessment of priorities like budget, herd characteristics, type of animal, and geography. The most common choice for modern barbed wire is still the same as it was in the 1800s when early settlers began setting up livestock farms across the western US–low carbon 12.5-gauge barbed wire. It’s cost-effective, strong, and offers a low-maintenance barrier that works for many kinds of animals.
Red Brand has been manufacturing high-quality livestock fencing for more than 130 years. Our barbed wire features two strands of reverse twist wire made from premium low-carbon steel. As an added layer of protection, our barbed wire is coated with zinc to prevent corrosion, ensuring that your fence line stands strong for years to come. Shop our premium wire fencing materials today.