Whether you're an old specialist with a pair of fencing pliers for a right hand, or just learning the ropes of wood, wire and tape, there's always something to learn when it comes to livestock fencing. Jim Gerrish, of American GrazingLands Service LLC in May, ID, and Merle Mohr, Gallagher territory manager based in Mina, SD, shared their thoughts on the most common fencing mistakes they see.
1. Corner posts
Both Gerrish and Mohr cited this as their top mistake when it comes to fencing. And it applies to barbed wire, high-tensile or woven wire fencing.
“I see a whole lot of fences that are basically intact and the corners are already falling apart,” Gerrish says.
The main issue, he cites, is that people use undersized posts and don't set corner posts deep enough, particularly in sandy or other soft soils. A guideline he follows: “The depth in the ground should be equal to, or greater than, the height of the top wire.”
For example, if the top wire on the fence is 42 in. high, there should be at least 42 in. of post in the ground.
Post diameter depends on the strength of the fence. Gerrish says the lightest-duty fence, such as a 1- or 2-wire high-tensile pasture subdivision fence, would only need a 4- to 5-in.-diameter post. A 5-strand barbed wire fence, or 5- or 6-strand high-tensile fence, would use a 6- to 7-in.-diameter post. And for net wire fences, Gerrish prefers an 8-in.-diameter post.
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Keeping corner posts in the ground is the chief concern for Mohr. “A 10-ft. brace is the ultimate in making corner posts stay in the ground,” he says, favoring a “floating diagonal” bracing system, in which the angle brace is a 4-in. by 10-ft. post notched a half-inch into the main corner post. The other end is set on top of the ground opposite of the corner post.
Mohr also cautions fencers to be wary of using drillstem for corner bracing. Drillstem is the metal pipe byproduct of oil wells. Unlike wood, it has the potential to conduct electricity and lessen the efficiency of the fence (see miskate #7).
2. Post spacing
“We always tell people they're using way too many posts,” Mohr remarks. The practice stems from people's experience with barbed wire, he says, where the rule of thumb was 1 post spaced every rod length (16.5 ft.). In an electric-fencing system, posts can be spaced farther apart. Mohr spaces posts 80-100 ft. apart, about 50 posts/mile.
He suggests using a “stay” if posts are spaced 100 ft. apart. A stay is a shorter post that sits on top of the ground and holds wires up. Gerrish prefers his posts closer together, at 50-70 ft.