There are 98.4 million head of cattle on more than 700,000 farms, ranches, and feedlots across the US. That’s a lot of beef (and some dairy) that need appropriate safety and shelter. The bovine species (cattle) are grazers. They spend a fair amount of time and get plenty of nutrients on pasture. And that leaves a lot of ground to cover when building fence lines.
Red Brand has been providing the livestock industry with quality fencing products since 1889. With over 130 years of experience under our belt, we know a thing or two about how to build a good cattle fence. There are plenty of options out there, including barbed wire, electric wire, and woven wire fencing. Each material has its merit. Let’s take a look at what you need to build a strong, durable cattle fence.
Choosing the Right Fencing Material for Cattle
When it comes to fencing cattle pastures, you have options–and that means decisions need to be made. The two most important considerations are your animals and your budget. All cows are not the same. A bull (uncut male) can be fairly aggressive.
By comparison, heifers, young unbred females, tend to be culled quickly if their temperament is too difficult. No cattle farmer wants to deal with breeding a cow that’s hard to handle, so it’s more likely than not that your ladies are a tame bunch. There are also notable temperament differences between different breeds. Ultimately, you know your herd best and can use that information to choose the right fencing.
There are plenty of options to suit different temperaments and budget priorities. From simple barbed wire configurations to durable woven wire field fence, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each material.
- Barbed Wire: Strands of galvanized steel wire with twisted wire barbs evenly spaced along the length of the wire. It’s a traditional, low-cost fencing option for most cattle. However, the barbed wire doesn’t pair well with electric fencing or animals that might test the boundary. By comparison, a field fence is a safer alternative.
- Electric Wire: Another common, cost-effective fencing method involves smooth galvanized wire strands with a pulsing electric current to enforce boundaries. It’s low cost and easy to erect, ideal for temporary placements or added reinforcement. Electric wire tends to cause visibility problems for animals. A woven wire field fence is a more visible alternative.
- Field Fence: Woven wire rolls of field fence are more common for permanent pastures. This fencing is durable, provides a long life span, and works well with additional reinforcement like a hot wire topper. Field fence is more visible than electric wire alone.
How Much Does Cattle Fencing Cost?
One of the most significant considerations is always cost. Cattle ranchers are in the business of raising cattle. And that means they’re not looking to spend frivolously on fencing. Fence costs are calculated in linear foot, meaning that the total number of feet required for the perimeter of your fencing project determines how much it will cost.
Woven Wire: Price varies by quality and gauge of wire, typically between $1 – $3 per linear foot. Woven wire is sold in rolls between 100 feet and 300 feet. The cost per 100 linear feet of fence line is between $100 and $300 for wire.
Electric Wire: Price varies by gauge, material, and strands. You’ll typically use 3-5 strands per fence line. One hundred linear feet of fence line requires 300 to 500 linear feet of wire. A 2500-foot roll of smooth wire costs between $100 and $300. This makes the same 100 feet of fence line with five strands of electric wire cost between $20 and $60, plus the cost of circuitry like an energizer and ground wires.
Barbed Wire: Barbed wire also requires multiple strands. You’ll need at least three strands to complete a fence line. The average cost of barbed wire is $150 per 1,200-foot roll. That roll can do 400 linear feet of fence line with three strands, making the cost per 100 feet $37.50.
Side by side, barbed wire might offer the lowest cost material, but many farmers opt for an investment in reasonably priced field fence to ensure the safety of their animals and the durability of their fence lines.
Important Factors to Consider When Choosing Cattle Fence
Designing an appropriate cattle fence takes a little more than choosing the right material. Here are a few more tips to build a sturdy fence.
Cattle are large animals–sometimes topping 2,000 pounds a piece. While they’re not particularly known for jumping fences, you’ll still need at least four-foot-tall fence lines to safely contain cattle.
One common mistake that farmers make when putting up pasture fences is underestimating the load on corner posts. Generally speaking, corner posts carry the tension of the entire fence line. Longer fence lines place more stress on corner posts. We recommend using larger diameter posts on the corners, footing them deeper into the ground, and creating braces in both directions.
Wire and Tension
The material that you choose will determine your needs for wire and tensioning. Field fence can be one of the most durable options, but it requires proper tension to remain strong. Without it, field fence will sag and quickly become ineffective. If using individual strands of barbed or smooth wire, space each strand about eight inches apart, creating a fence line that has three to five strands.
Placing fence posts closer together can add strength and durability to your fence line. For larger livestock like cattle that tend to push and lean on fences, closer is better. Place posts between eight and twelve feet apart.
Final Tips for Cattle Fencing
Building a safe, effective fence for larger livestock is possible without breaking the bank. Some farmers opt for the low-cost barbed and smooth wire options and spend a significant amount of time repairing and re-tensioning these simple wire fences. By comparison, field fence is an affordable wire option that requires little maintenance if it is properly tensioned. You’ll spend the most time and money on good fence posts. Match that investment by choosing field fence for a stronger, longer-lasting cattle fence.
Red Brand has more than 130 years of experience providing quality fencing materials. See how effective, high-quality field fence is today.