The type of livestock you need to contain with your field fence will determine the most suitable field fence specification. The size and behavioural characteristics of different animals will make certain heights, knot types and configurations of fence more suitable than others. Understanding these requirements will help you to make a more informed decision about choosing the right field fence for your particular needs.
Woven wire net has something of an undeserved reputation as expensive and difficult to install. We would definitely argue that net is quite cost-effective and much easier and more efficient to install than barbed wire.
Cattle are generally the easiest animals to keep in, but can be quite a challenge to capture should they escape. Fences “designed” for cattle can range from a single hot wire all the way to guardrail on pipe posts. A single strand of hotwire, albeit effective with tame cattle, would not generally be advised for a perimeter fence. On the flip-side, guardrail fence is typically reserved for working facilities or crowding areas. Somewhere in the middle is where most cattle fence lands, so that’s what we’ll address.
Barbed wire is widely regarded as the first economical solution for cattle containment or exclusion, and continues to be a viable option. Three strands is common in the vast pastures of the west, increasing to 5 or 6 as you head east, and even 10 or 12 strand where goats might be introduced. Post spacing is generally no more than one rod, or 16.5’. Our preference is 14 gauge HT 4-point from Tornado, available in 1,320’ and 5,280’ rolls for increased efficiency on your big jobs. We recommend that barbed wire never be electrified.
Electrified HT wire has carved its place as the go-to option for cost-effectiveness – typically installed in a 3 to 8 wire pattern with alternating hot wires, and intermediate posts spaced anywhere from 12’ to 50’ on center. Vertical stay wires can be added for additional stability. This fence is a great option in less populated areas, flood plains, heavily wooded areas, or areas with limited access for machinery. A loss of power, dead short, or extremely dry ground resulting in a less shocking experience for the livestock are a few of the problems a producer might have to contend with.
Woven wire, or net, is by far our favorite choice for its effectiveness in containing livestock, efficiency of installation, and cost-effectiveness. For a cow / calf operation with good grass, our choice for a functional and economic fence would be Titan 842-12 (that would be 8 horizontal line wires, 42” tall, 12” between vertical stays) from Tornado, with intermediate post spacing of 25’ and a strand of barbed wire on top. For a stocker operation on smaller acreages, Titan 1348-12 with a strand of barbed on top and 16’ post spacing would be our top pick. Tornado Torus net also provides the strength of HT wire and a solid vertical stay, with the efficiency of a lighter square knot and rolls up to 1,320’ long.
Sheep are relatively easy to keep in, and a short net with a hot or barbed wire on top is the standard. Hinged joint holds up fine for sheep, but if other types of stock will be rotated in, a taller, stiffer fence would be desirable.
Electrified smooth HT also works well for sheep, but we’ve learned to tighten wire spacing up a little at the bottom, and to make the bottom wire hot. Lambs would have a tendency to weasel under a cold bottom wire, and the lower hot wire also helps to repel predators.
Clearly, 5-strand barbed wire would be hard on wool production, so for that reason, we don’t recommend it.
Goats are among the most difficult livestock animals to contain. There are some that get by with electrified HT, but we feel like that should be reserved for an interior fence.
Our go-to goat fence is Titan 1348-12 net. Goats want to climb, chew, rub, or otherwise destroy anything in their path, so we feel that the Titan fixed knot is the best option.
We have smaller opening specs available in both Titan fixed knot, and Torus square knot, but with the strength of the fixed knot and the bigger openings, the likelihood of a goat getting its head stuck in the fence is greatly reduced.
Hinged Joint should be avoided altogether when considering goat fence options.
Barbed wire is also a viable option for goats, but it takes 10-12 strands with fairly tight post spacing to be effective. As contractors, we would only use barbed wire for goats in areas where machinery access was restricted.