Larger livestock require a lot of space. A good-sized cattle pasture can be at least 20 acres and often two or three times that size. All that space means that farmers need a cost-effective, durable fencing option. Field fence, or woven-wire fence, offers both. The catch is that this fencing needs to be stretched and tensioned correctly to work well and maximize longevity.
A properly installed and stretched field fence can last for up to 25 years. But it can be a little tricky to get the tension just right. Let’s take a look at how to stretch a field fence with a step-by-step guide.
Start with the Right Tools
Any job is a whole lot easier when you have what you need before you get started. You will need posts and field fencing, of course. But you will also want a few tools. You won’t be able to pull the fencing tight enough by hand, so take a few minutes to gather these supplies before you begin.
- Fence Posts (both wooden and steel t-posts): Posts provide structure and stability for your field fence. Special attention should be taken to reinforce the corners. You will also need a few extra wood posts to use for your dummy braces.
- Drill & Drill Bit: You will need to drill holes for your dummy brace system using a 3/8” drill bit.
- Brace Pins: Choose 3/8-inch by 10-inch brace pins to construct your dummy braces and hold the posts in place.
- Scrap Wood Pieces: Extra pieces of wood boards used to shim your dummy braces.
- Post Hole Digger, Tamping Tools & Driver: If you need to set or reset any fence posts, you’ll make the job a lot easier with a post hole digger, a tamping tool to firmly pack the dirt around the post, or a post driver for T-posts.
- Field Fencing: Most field fencing comes in rolls. You will need enough field fencing to enclose the entire area.
- Gates: Livestock gates with hardware can provide easy access to your pastures, but require some planning for placement.
- Come Along: A special tool designed for tensioning wire fence.
- Fence Stretcher Bar: This specialty tool uses steel bars and bolts to clamp down on the horizontal wires of any woven fence style to pull the mesh evenly. A wire stretcher can be used with a come along.
- Measuring Wheel & Marking Paint: A properly installed field fence requires regularly spaced supports and straight lines. Mark out the path of the fence line before you begin setting posts.
- Staples: Use galvanized fence staples that range in size from ¾-inch to two inches. These staples look like a nail bent into a U-shape with points on both ends.
- Fence Pliers: A tool used to cut, stretch or splice wire, hammer or pull staples.
- Other Tools: Working with wire can be rough on your hands, don’t forget a sturdy pair of work gloves and a fence tool to make the job a little easier.
You don’t need a tractor or any fancy farm implements to stretch a field fence. In fact, using a tractor to tension a fence will almost certainly lead to overstretching. All it takes is your fencing material and a few, small tools like wire cutters, a stretcher bar, and a come along.
Stretching a Field Fence, Step-by-Step
Begin by marking out your area and post-placement. If you already have posts in place and are simply installing or repairing the field fence, take time to inspect all posts for stability before beginning the process of stretching your field fence.
- Install a Dummy Brace: Construct a temporary brace system that will act as a brace to transfer tension through the end of the fence line. To do this, dig an extra post hole at the end of your fence line and drop a post in the hole. Leave it loose while you brace it to the end line post.
- Drill Holes: To brace the dummy post, drill a hole in the line post that is positioned higher than the top wire. Then, drill a coordinating hole in the cross piece. Drill a matching hole in the dummy post and the opposite end of the brace piece.
- Assemble with Brace Pins: You will use brace pins to hold the cross-piece in place, attached between the dummy post and the line post.
- Shim the Dummy Brace: Add a couple of pieces of scrap wood around the sides of the dummy post to steady it in the hole. Keep in mind this is a temporary bracing system that will be disassembled and reused.
- Roll Your Fence Material Out: Lay a roll of field fence on its side, starting at a corner post, and unroll the fencing parallel to the fence line. Be sure that the fence material is attached to the posts on the inside of the enclosure. This will help keep the fence from pulling away from the posts when animal pressure is applied.
- Position Fencing: Stand the fence up at the first line post and tack into place with a staple. This will position the fence so that you can securely wrap the corners.
- Secure the Fencing at the Corner Post: Move back to the corner post and wrap the excess length around the post. Then, strip the vertical wires to securely wrap around each horizontal wire, keeping the fencing in place. Wrap each wire at least 4-5 times using a fence tool like a wire gripper.
- Splice Fencing as Needed: Longer fence lines may require splicing together two or more pieces of field fence. There are two methods that are typically used: either a hand splice or a mechanical splice with a crimp sleeve and tool.
A hand splice is similar to wrapping a corner post where you simply cut the vertical wires and use a fence tool to wrap the individual wires around the coordinating wire on the new piece. A mechanical splice effectively does the same job using a crimp sleeve that is placed over the two wires and crimped in place with a crimping tool.
- Move to the Opposite End: Roll out enough fence to wrap the opposite corner post and trim. Then, stand the fence up at the first line post for correct positioning and attach your stretcher bar at the end of the wire.
- Connect the Fence, Stretcher Bar, and Come Along: Add two lengths of heavy-duty chain around the dummy brace post, one positioned at the top of the post and the other at the bottom. Then, attach come alongs to the chains around the dummy brace and then to the stretcher bar (that is attached to the end of the wire length).
- Ratchet the Come Along: Begin ratcheting the come along, alternating between the top and bottom to maintain even pressure. As you tighten the wire, pay close attention to the fence line, walking it back and forth several times to prevent snags on roots or stumps that may damage your fencing and interfere with proper tensioning.
- Tighten and Position Fence Line: Continue ratcheting the come along with one arm, maintaining even tension on top and bottom, gradually aligning the top of the fence in the correct position along with each post.
- Wrap the Corner Post: Once the fence is in place, it’s time to wrap the opposite corner post, repeating the same process as above (step 7). Begin with the middle wires first, working your way to the top and bottom wires last. Finish the corner post by stapling the top and bottom wires for added security.
- Secure the Wires: Work your way down the fence line, securing the horizontal wires to each post.
- Clean Up: Detach your come along and disassemble your dummy braces and you’re all done!
Final Tips for Stretching a Field Fence
Take your time and do the job right. A properly stretched field fence can last for many years, keeping in mind that tighter isn’t always better. Overstretching a field fence can put too much pressure on posts, especially at the ends of a fence line. Similarly, too much slack in your fence line will cause too much pressure on the wires–both leading to premature failure and more upkeep on your field fences.
Red Brand is a leading brand name in the agriculture industry with more than 130 years of experience in building fencing that stands the test of time. High-quality field fencing with proper installation is a durable and cost-effective way to contain livestock, protect crops, and more. Shop our store for the right tools to get the job done.