When it comes to smaller livestock, a flock of sheep is a great choice for beginners, hobby farmers, and additional income streams for existing farms. Sheep are raised for meat, milk, and wool. And, as an added bonus, do a great job with vegetation control. Many farmers with acreage to manage choose sheep over the similarly sized but often more difficult to manage goats.
While a flock of sheep might do a great job of grazing acreage, they’re not aggressive or predatory. In fact, they’re unlikely to defend themselves at all. This leaves farmers with the task of ensuring their flocks’ protection against natural predators like coyotes, wolves, and bears. Given the number and variety of natural predators, you’ll need a durable fencing material like woven wire field fence to protect your sheep. Here, we’ll discuss the best options for fencing to protect sheep from predators.
Who are the Natural Predators of Sheep?
When choosing an appropriate fencing material to keep predators out, the first question that comes to mind is–what? Or, possibly more appropriately–how big?
The most common predator across all regions is the coyote. It’s a wild dog, similar to a wolf but smaller. Although rare for established populations, coyotes can sometimes cross-breed with wolves or domesticated dogs to produce various hybrid species. This can account for variations in size, appearance, and behavior. With these predators, good fencing is the best line of protection.
It might be hard to think of a man’s best friend as a predator. However, canines share a close genetic resemblance to the feral coyote. As mentioned above, they’ve even been known to crossbreed with coyotes. Along with that genetic similarity, even the domesticated dog possesses an instinctual prey drive. There are dozens of documented accounts of otherwise friendly farm dogs attacking and killing sheep–enough that in some areas, dogs are a significant threat to a flock. Here, a good fence that goes all the way to the ground is the best protection.
Mountain lions–a large, predatory feline species, are more common than you might think. While you’re unlikely to encounter one in the flatlands of the great plains, any geographical area with an elevation between sea level and 10,000 feet is fair game. Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, prefer rougher terrain and the dense coverage of forests. However, expanding populations have forced some to inhabit new areas.
Some of the largest predators you’ll need to consider are various species of bears. Any region with forests or mountains can make a good home for bears, so plan for tall fencing and electric wire reinforcement to ensure that your field fences stand up to these large predators.
A bobcat is a medium-sized feral cat native to North America. These animals are nocturnal and rarely seen by humans, yet they exist in nearly every area–including suburban areas. Still, the best protection for predators like bobcats is a strong fence. Choose woven wire field fence to get durable, cost-effective protection that leaves no gaps for predators to slide underneath.
A fox is a predator from the canine family. They’re particularly known for being sly and handy when it comes to evading measures of protection. If you have a predator picking off your flock and you just can’t figure out how–a fox might be the culprit. With reddish-colored fur, pointed muzzles, and bushy tails–they don’t look as scary as a wolf or a bear but that doesn’t mean they’re any less of a threat. In addition to a good fence, some sheep farmers add an alpaca to their flock for protection.
How to Build a ‘Good’ Fence
You’ll hear it over and over again–a good fence is your best bet at protecting your flock from predators. There are plenty of options for fencing so what does a ‘good’ fence really mean?
When choosing fencing, look for products that are designed to provide a safe enclosure for the livestock and durable protection against predators. For example, woven wire field fence provides a strong, safe solution that fits the bill. With woven wire, there are no barbs to get caught in sheep’s wool and no welds to break under pressure from predators.
For most areas, the minimum height for sheep fencing is four feet. This will provide adequate protection against most predators. However, if bears are a particular concern, you may want to add height with high-tensile hot wire up to six feet.
Woven wire typically comes in a mesh roll. However, it’s available in many different sizes and gauges. For the best protection, look for vertical stays that are no more than four inches apart and horizontal wires that are no more than 2-4 inches apart. The tight, secure knots on woven fence won’t slip, and the close spacing will prevent most animals from penetrating the enclosure.
Final Thoughts on the Best Fencing to Protect Sheep
Sheep have plenty of natural predators. For farmers that rely on these animals to produce meat, milk, and wool–it’s not ideal. Still, keeping sheep in a barn is often too resource-intensive for most farms to manage at scale. Instead, the most practical solution is to invest in good fencing. The best fencing to protect sheep is designed to be durable against predators but safe for the livestock it contains. Woven wire field fence serves both–providing blunt surface fencing that is just the right strength to keep sheep in and predators out.
Red Brand is a well-established manufacturer of high-quality fencing materials with more than 130 years of industry experience. Shop our sheep fencing options today.