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Common Cattle Fencing Mistakes

by Judy Knowler

As long as there have been ranchers and farmers, there have been folks out there doing their own livestock fencing. Fences are very important to the success of your ranch or farm. They keep your cattle on your land and keep rogue critters, wildlife, and people away.

However, just as good fences make good neighbors, good fences also make good farms. Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make when setting up fencing for their cattle.

Common Mistakes When Building Cattle Fences

First, let’s discuss the type of fencing you should use to keep your cattle in their enclosure.

In most cases, ranchers and farmers opt for barbed wire fencing, as it presents both a physical barrier and a visual one for the cattle. Some ranchers may also choose to add a line of electric wire to further deter their cattle from hanging around the fence line (you don’t need a cow with an itch rubbing against your wires and tearing up your fence), but this is optional.

But no matter what kind of fencing you use for your livestock area, make sure you avoid these common mistakes.

Incorrect Corner Posts

Your corner posts are the unsung heroes of your fence line. While they may not look like much, they are the ones holding those strands of wire in place. Therefore, it is very important to get the proper corner posts for your fence and to install them correctly.

If you plan to install a barbed wire fence, you’ll need corner posts that are at least 6 inches in diameter. If you’re using a woven wire fence you’ll want corner posts that are 8 inches in diameter. Corner posts should be buried at least 3-1/2 feet deep and allow for 6 inches above the top wire. Therefore, a 4-foot corner post must be 8 feet long.

Incorrect Post Spacing

While your fence posts do a lot of the work keeping your wires in place, they do get help from a few t-posts. You might think that extra t-posts mean extra support, but if you place your t-posts too close together, you might end up undermining the integrity and efficacy of your fence.

It is important to find out how many t-posts you need based on the type of fencing you’re using. For example, if you use woven wire fencing, you can space your posts 8 to 12 feet apart. For barbed wire, however, the rule of thumb is to place a post every 16.5 feet, and electric fences require even greater spacing at 80 to 100 feet apart.

Poorly Planned Fence Lines

Installing a fence on your farm is an exercise in long-term planning. After all, your fence will likely be in place for many years, so you’ll want it to accommodate any changes you plan to make on your land. Try to think ahead about new buildings you plan to erect, where you want gates to be, and any other ideas that could impact your fence down the road — or else you’ll be pulling up the fence and re-doing it before long.

Wrong Sized Energizer for Electric Fence

This mistake only applies to individuals with an electric fence, and yet it is common enough to address it here. Remember this rule: you need one joule of output per one mile of fence. If your fence is 5 miles long, you need a 5-joule energizer. If your fence is 50 miles long, you need a 50-joule energizer. Getting an energizer that doesn’t offer enough power (or too much) will lead to problems with your fence.

Resisting the Local Wildlife

This last mistake may seem counterintuitive. After all, earlier we said that fences are meant to keep wildlife out. It’s important to remember that other animals roam the same pastures as your cattle, and are likely to approach your fence at some point or another. A fence that is too taught or too ridgid may snap when challenged by a large intruder. Opting for flexible construction or installing a low-profile fence will keep your lines from breaking when tested.

Cattle Fence Installation Tips

  • Use the right fence type for your animals. If your cattle like to bite or lean on the fence, consider an electric line. If they are persistent escape artists, make sure you have enough barbed wire to deter them.
  • Space your posts properly (according to the type of fencing you use). It will make all the difference in keeping your fence standing over time.
  • Use woven wire to prevent small animals from getting under your fence and pestering your livestock.
  • Always pay attention to property lines. You don’t want to accidentally place a corner post on your neighbor’s property.

If you heed these tips and avoid the mistakes we’ve discussed above, you will have a great fence that keeps your animals safe and secure for a long, long time.

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