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A Beginner’s Guide To Choosing The Perfect Fence

wood fence woven wire synthetic barbed wire electricWhen it comes to fencing, there seem to be as many options as there are jellybean flavors, and like, jellybeans, you can combine different options to get just the right combination for you and your farm.

But when you’re first starting out, it can seem a little overwhelming and fencing can get expensive quickly, so ensuring that you have the best type to suit your particular needs is important from the get-go. Below I’ll share a little about each of the most popular types of fencing. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to choose what should work best for you and your situation.

1. Woven-wire

Woven-wire fencing comes in a variety of heights and spacing and is constructed from galvanized wire that has been knotted at each intersection. (There are types of wire that have just been welded at these intersections, but they are far less sturdy and are usually only suited for smaller animals, like rabbits and chickens.) For animals that can’t be contained by an electric fence alone, like sheep and pigs, woven wire is an excellent option. Goats, horses and ponies also can be contained in woven-wire fencing, but ensure that you get “no-climb” fencing to ensure that they can’t get their hooves stuck. If you are going to use woven-wire fencing for keeping wildlife (like deer) out, then use the kind that has larger openings at the top to lessen the chances of them getting stuck when they try to leap it. Woven wire is often combined with an electric strand of wire or barbed wire to encourage animals to stay away from it. For animals that need more than just an electric wire, woven-wire is cheaper than wood and is an excellent option.

2. Wood

Wooden fences are typically used for containing horses. Corrals where livestock may bump up against the fence are often made from wood as well. Wood is sturdy, but one of the more expensive options for fencing. One way to offset the cost is to harvest trees from your own land, if this is an option. You can also sometimes find used wooden fencing available in your local newspaper or through online sites like

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Wooden fencing, however, is very susceptible to rot and decay, especially in moist climates, so it is important to check used fences thoroughly before you hand over any money for them. A fence is only as good as its posts, so be sure to use pressure treated ones. When you install your wooden fence, use aluminum or stainless steel nails, as iron nails rust rapidly. You can also coat your wooden fence with water resistant preservative. An additional coat of paint is optional, but can offer further protection and aesthetic appeal. Wooden fences are one of the prettiest and safest fences, but the cost can be prohibitive at times.

3. Synthetic

Synthetic and recycled plastics are used to create attractive fencing options for horse pastures as well as residential applications. Synthetic fencing used to contain horses may include aluminum to reinforce it. Strap forms of vinyl horse fencing often have high-tensile or electric wires woven into them. The wire adds extra strength to the fence and the ability to electrify it, while the vinyl straps increase visibility to animals and humans alike. Residential synthetic fencing isn’t strong enough to hold livestock and tends to be less sturdy, but it can often work well for keeping dogs and other pets in the yard or out of the garden. While synthetic fencing can be one of the most expensive fencing options, it does tend to last a long time (some products come with lifetime warranties!), so the initial cost may well pay itself back, and then some.

4. Barbed Wire

Barbed wire has a long history. The concept was first presented in 1873 at a county fair and in subsequent years it was improved upon by several men. It was the first wire fencing option for containing cattle. Today, it is used in combination with other fencing types to contain not only livestock, but also prisoners at correctional facilities, and to discourage enemies in war zones. Barbed wire is made from steal with pointed wire projections occurring along its length. The wire can cause discomfort and even injury to those who seek to cross it. While barbed wire is an option for containing cattle, don’t use it for horse fencing. Horses can become caught in it and panic, resulting in injury and even death. While slow animals that tend to back off at the first sign of discomfort, like cows, can be contained fairly safely in barbed wire, be sensitive to local wildlife in your area that may become caught and injured in it. Barbed wire is one of the cheapest and easiest fences to put in place, but weigh the pros and cons carefully before installing it.

5. Electric/High-tensile-wire

When it comes to fencing, electric is one of the cheapest options. It’s fairly easy to install as well, but unlike other fencing options, you need a power supply to run your fence charger. There are solar-powered chargers available as well depending on the range and strength you need. The ease of installation coupled with the adaptability of electric wire makes this the choice of preference for many farmers and livestock owners. Electric fences may also be one of the safest fences since the intermittent electric pulse trains animals to avoid the fence altogether. Electric pulses can be set to varying levels of strength to suit the particular animals contained in it. The wire comes in a number of different thicknesses and styles and the fence can be made up of a single steel wire, or several wires, some electrified and some not. High-tensile-wire is often electrified and its strength is substantial. Fewer posts are needed since the wire can be stretched tighter between posts. However, the one downside to high-tensile is its strength. If an animal runs into it, the damage can be quite considerable. Think cheese-slicer affect. For excitable animals, like horses, choose lighter wire or other fencing options. There are electric netting options for containing poultry, as well as portable electric fences for containing livestock temporarily. Basic maintenance includes checking and tightening the wires and ensuring that grass and weeds don’t soak up the pulse. Electric wire has so many applications and is affordable, so chances are that you’ll be working with it at some point.

Whether you choose one of the above fencing options or a combination of several, know that no fencing choice is set in stone. When you first start out an operation, you are going off of advice from others, but no other farmer’s situation is exactly like yours. So, use good judgment and forethought when you break ground with your first post to avoid extra expense, but allow yourself the freedom to grow and design as needs arise and you determine what works best for you.

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