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Choosing a farm fence

The first step in building a farm fence is deciding what
you want it to do.  In the West, it used
to be that 3 barbed wires and a hedge post every rod (16.5 feet) was enough for
cattle.  The Midwest farm probably had a
hog tight fence that had a barb on the bottom to deter rooting underneath it, a
woven wire panel and 3 barbed wires on top. 
You'd see split rail fences on Kentucky horse farms and stone walls in
New England.  As new materials and new
lifestyles came on the scene, it is more important than ever to sit down and
decide on what you want the fence to do and how you want to do it.

 

The first step is to become familiar with local laws and
zoning regulations.  Neighbors, local
government offices, a knowledgeable real estate attorney and the internet are
good places to start your search.   Along
with knowing the responsibilities and restrictions, you need to define what you
want the fence to do.   For the most
part, you can expect a fence to define or defend an area, to keep animals in or
out and, through its appearance, to say something about us owners.  Often we want the fence to do a combination
of these functions.

 

Defining a property may require verifying or conducting a
formal or legal land survey.  You may
also want to enter into an agreement with your neighbor on ownership and
responsibility for fence upkeep.   It's
commonly thought that if you face your neighbor over a fence, you each take
care of the right hand half, but that is not always true and it can be changed
by agreement.  It may be a good idea to
record the agreement in an abstract or other legal document.

 

The appearance of the fence says something about us
whether we want it to or not.  A white
painted fence says the farm is prosperous, proud and has time and money to
erect such a display.  A couple of
strands of rusty barbed wire may say we only do enough to get by.  Decisions about appearance often have a big
affect on how much the fence costs and maybe on the time and money for upkeep.

 

Keeping animals in or out will undoubtedly have the most
influence on what kind of fence we use. 
There are two basic barriers, physical and psychological.  A board fence is a physical barrier.  An electric fence is psychological.  A high tensile wire fence with a
"hot" wire combines the two. 
Further, a fence can be permanent or temporary.  Cost is a major factor in choosing fence
design and materials.

 

Physical barriers are designed with animal(s) in
mind.  Several strands of wire will stop
a cow but not a deer, buffalo or raccoon. 
Horses move quickly and have poor frontal vision so their fence should
be easy to see.  A number of land grant
university websites have discussions on tailoring the right fence to the right
animal.

 

Electrified fences are attractive because they are cheap
and easy to construct.  For some animals
they are idea.  For others, you have to
use a significant shock to get through the thick hair.  Electric fence maintenance must be regular to
be sure it keeps its psychological effect.

 

There are many excellent web sites with resources for
farm and acreage fences.  Among them are:

University of Georgia: 
http://theurbanrancher.tamu.edu/construction/fencesforthefarm.pdf

Iowa State University: 
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/acreage/AL2000/al00pdf/aloct00.pdf

USDA:  http://www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/news/factsheets/fs10.pdf

 

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