Here are seven of the most common errors in livestock fencing, and how to avoid them.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in BEEF in March 2009. It has been updated to reflect changes in fence technology and use since then.
Whether you’re an experienced hand or just learning the basics of wood, wire and tape, there's always something more to learn when it comes to livestock fencing. Jim Gerrish, of American GrazingLands Services LLC, in May, Idaho, and Kevin Derynck, Gallagher territory manager based in Keystone, S.D., shared their thoughts on the seven most common fencing mistakes.
1. Corner posts
This ranks as the top mistake in fencing, be it barbed, high-tensile or woven wire. The main issues are undersized posts and corner posts not set deeply enough, particularly in sandy or soft soils. Gerrish, who has clients in 43 states, says, “the depth in the ground should be equal to, or greater than, the height of the top wire.”
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, only requires a 4- to 5-inch-diameter post. A 5-strand barbed wire fence, or 5- or 6-strand high-tensile fence, requires a 6- to 7-inch-diameter post. For net wire fences, Gerrish recommends an 8-inch-diameter post.
Keeping corner posts in the ground is Derynck’s chief concern. He says a 10-foot brace is the ultimate, and he favors a “floating diagonal” bracing system, in which the angle brace is a 4-inch by 10-foot post notched a half-inch into the main corner post. The other end is set on top of the ground opposite the corner post.
And he cautions against using drill stem – the metal pipe byproduct of oil wells – for corner bracing an electric fence. Unlike wood, it can conduct electricity and lessen the efficiency of the fence.
2. Post spacing
Fencers tend to use too many posts, which likely stems from people's experience with barbed wire, where the rule of thumb was 1 post every rod length (16.5 feet). In an electric-fencing system, Derynck spaces posts 80-100 feet apart, or about 50 posts per mile.
He suggests using a “stay” – a shorter post that sits on top of the ground and holds wires up – if posts are spaced 100 ft. apart. Gerrish prefers his posts closer together, at 50-70 feet.