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Choosing a farm fence

Agriculture.com Staff Updated: 07/12/2010 @ 4:11pm

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.

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