Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Before you build a fence…

For some folks it’s winter which means when they’re not enjoying chores in the icy wind, they’re inside by the fire thinking about their dream fence. But before they build, they need to take into account the following:

1. Will the fence be moved? If so, how often?
  • Daily or weekly—Temporary or very portable design must be quick to install or remove. To eliminate the need for large end and corner posts, the fence strands, whether single, multiple or a mesh (netting) must be electrified and under minimal tension.
  • Once per season—Semi-permanent can be an interim barrier until a more permanent fence is installed. This allows folks to field-test fence and gate locations to see what works best. It usually consists of electrified net or multiple electrified strands under low tension (supported by stronger posts than temporary fences). Will need more attention than permanent fences.
  • Never moved—Permanent fences for boundary and subdivision fences for land that's owned by the user (and whose usage is not likely to change). Requires strong wood, steel or fiberglass posts which support high-tensile wires, woven wire, rope or wide tape (one or more strands are electrified). More reliable than other options but more $$ to install. May require a professional installer. 
2.  What is the fence’s location?
Is it flat? Or does it go over hills and ditches as well as around curves? Is it covered with brush, trees or open grass? Are the soils rocky, very soft, sandy or firm? The optimum fence design often hinges on the answers to these questions. 

Depending on the shape of the area to be fenced, extra posts will be needed at corners, curves and major directional changes. 

3. Is it a lane or corral fence?
These situations often force animals into contact with fences. Such fences need better visibility, high strength and if possible, no hot wires. 

4. Do the animals know the fence?
  • Local animals and wildlife get to "know" a fence by appearance, site and "pain memory." If it's a strong or painful fence, they avoid it. 
  • On the other hand new animals just off a truck/trailer often charge into permanent fences and straight through temporary or semi-permanent fences. That’s why strong, tall and visible permanent fences are essential for receiving corrals and feedlots. 
  • Temporary fences that are not physically strong pose the greatest risk of escape to newly acquired animals. It pays to train them to it inside of a permanent fence. 
Do not keep animals of the same species on opposite sides of the fence. They will try to join their companions. Animals of different species (above) is perfectly acceptable. 

5. What specific animals need to be fenced in or out?—Always design and build the fence for the most difficult species. Some rules of thumb:
  • Most sheep and goat fences will stop cattle. The inverse is not always true. 
  • Fencing adult males (bulls, rams, stallions, boars and billies) in/out requires taller fences with closer wire/strand spacing and more powerful electric pulses. 
  • Fences for mixed sizes (ewes with lambs, cows with calves) need more strands than uniform animal groups. 
  • Certain breeds need better fences (e.g. flighty Romanov sheep, tall Columbia sheep, Chianina Cattle). 
6. Should you energize the fence? It usually pays to do this. Why?
  • A hot strand has a zone of pain around it. So fewer strands are needed if one is energized. Both the material and the labor to install is reduced. 
  • Energized fences last longer and require less maintenance—because animals do not crowd, rub or scratch on them. So the fence wires (including wires that are not energized) require less tension to do their job. Braces and corner posts will also last longer. 
  • Animals are more surely contained and excluded during breeding and weaning. 
  • A non-energized fence increases the risk of animal entanglement and possible death. It is extremely important that a fence is energized.
7. How keen will animals be to breach the fence line? Build for the worst case situation you can afford to do so. Situations below:
  • Hunger. Starved animals will eventually challenge most fences. 
  • Weaning. Strong physical barriers are needed to cope with separation. 
  • Breeding. Libido induces all creatures to challenge rules (and fences). 
  • Boredom. Animals in corrals, stalls and lots craze any form of entertainment. 
  • Gateways and handling yards. Animals often push each other into fences when being moved about. 
  • Goats. Without a doubt they are clever and creative escape artists. 
  • Fear and fright. Predators or loud noises can cause prey species to run in terror straight into, under, over or through any fence, no matter the design (netting, hi-tensile or woven wire). 
8. How visible should a fence be?
It depends. Horses, deer and antelope move at high speed and have restricted color perception (compared to humans). They may not see small fence wires such as HT wire, MaxiShock or some polywires. So the may charge right into them. 
That's why it's wise to include rope or tape (both highly visible) in certain fences.

HT fences (such as the one above) are not easily visible to horses and are thus unsafe!

9. Are long dry periods common?
Electric fences typically rely upon soil moisture as a conductor. When the soil is dry or covered in dry snow, normal electric fences and low impedance energizers may not work. 
Solutions for this are:
  • Use a wide impedance energizer. They’re less affected by dry soil. 
  • Integrate earth-return wires (connected to the energizer's negative terminal) into the fence. Animals must touch two strands but it works well. 
Consult Premier if you have any questions regarding dry soil fencing.

Netting weighed down by freezing rain. 

10. Will heavy snow or ice occur? 
Enough ice can bring down the strongest power lines, so all fences are vulnerable. But some cope better than others. Are your animals likely to penetrate the fence before the ice melts.

11. What is the cost if the fence fails?
The high the potential cost (in time, money) of a failure, the more reliable the fence design should be. Examples:
  • Along public highways. In some states the land owner is liable for damages to both vehicles and humans. So owners in these areas must build better fences to reduce risk. 
  • Around stored feed. If animals gorge on grain, death may occur. 
  • Protect high-value. e.g. crops, gardens, orchards or young tree plantings from deer. Protect poultry/sheep/goats from goats from dogs, coyotes, etc. 
  • Fences with animals on both sides. Mix-ups are time consuming. They're very costly if the animals breed or spread disease. Neighborhood relations can be strained. Lawsuits may occur. 
To help determine the right fence for you, consult a Premier Fence Catalog (or request one) or talk to Premier directly. Our email is info@premier1supplies.com and our phone # is 1-800-282-6631.