Sunday, March 11, 2012


I've built a number of fences over the past 5 years, and I'm building another one now.

The conventional wisdom on fencing is that you can't built it too well, and I've found that to be true. 
It's also said that you can't have too many gates, or gates that are too wide, and that's true in my experience. 

Finally, electric fences are voluntary fencing, and that's why I'm doing this: 

My Holstein steer fence

You see, I have these huge steers.  They're going to be slaughtered this year, but as far as the animals on my farm, they're the giants.  They're over 5 feet tall at the shoulder, and weigh around 1200lbs (that's a guess, may very well be more), and they are TOUGH on fencing.  They basically walk through field fencing, and step gingerly over hog panels.   They don't like the electric fence, but if they're startled they can run right through it.  And cows startle sometimes.  For reasons only known to cows. 

I'm also going to be getting more cattle this year, and I needed a pen that I could put relatively wild cattle into that was secure for everyone involved.   With a secure exterior fence I can then put up an electric fence inside it and condition the cattle to it, with the eventual goal of having the cows out on pasture with only the electric fence.  But they have to learn to respect the electric fence... and so this is the pen that is attached to my corral/loading chute complex. 

The posts are pressure-treated 6x6 posts,  buried 36" deep and set in concrete.  They are set 8' apart, and the rails are standard 8' lengths of 2x6 painted with preservative.  I am careful to set the posts 8' apart because it makes repair of the corral very easy.  A board gets broken?  Just knock out the ends, buy a replacement 2x6 for $3 and in 10 minutes you're done.  They are nailed to the posts with 4 3" nails and an additional 6" spike, two spikes per board.  The nails are not enough to keep the board on the posts if you have a cow bounce off the boards; the flex of the impact is enough to pull standard nails.  Lag screws are a better way to go, but they are too pricy.  6" spikes are about a nickel each, and for the extra 10 cents, well worth the investment.  They also make it harder to knock the boards off from the "wrong" side.  Notice that the boards are nailed on the inside of the fence.  If you smack the corral from this side, the spikes keep the board on the posts.   

Since I'm building stuff, I also put a feeding station into this fenceline; you can see the feeder panel (that green pipe thing on the right side of the photo, laying on the ground). 

That's so that the cattle can be fed from outside the corral, for safety and efficiency purposes.   I'll put a small concrete slab underneath the feeding area, which also contains a faucet and trough, so that the cattle aren't standing in mud when they're eating.   The area around feeding stations and troughs is usually very muddy and I'd like to keep it cleaner from now on. 

This area is a dual-purpose. In the non-growing seasons its where the cattle will be kept; close to the front of the property, easy to feed, with an all-weather road and access.  It's next to the chute for easy loading in case of flood or other need -- like sales -- and it's big enough that it can be maintained with the big tractor. 

In the growing seasons, late spring to early fall around here, I'll have it planted with vegetables.  When the cattle return they can glean any leftover plants/vegetables as their first task.

I have found it to be very comforting to be able to put an animal into a secure enclosure and know that it's safe and sound until morning; lets me sleep better.  


Unknown said...

I am curious as to why you chose wooden fencing over woven wire? It's quite a bit more expensive isn't it?

Bruce King said...

The materials cost of the fence is higher - 8 feet of board fence costs about $46, 8 feet of 5' tall woven wire fence costs $24.

Once you add in the costs of the braces and concrete for the woven wire, it gets a little closer, too. These costs are for the typical 8' section in the middle of the fence.

If the woven wire fence is damaged it can't be easily repaired and retensioned.

The board fence is easy to repair.

I'm not fencing my entire property with the board fence; I'm making a 1 acre holding pen, basically. New cattle come in, go into this pen, get acclimated to the electric fence, and then go out on pasture; or we use this area as the sacrifice paddock in the non-growing season.

Fence cost breakdown:
Board fence
8' 6x6, pressure treated, $23
5 8' 2x6 boards, $15
2 sacks concrete, $6
nails, paint, $2

Woven wire fence
8' of 2x2 5' tall woven wire, $16
8' heavy t post, $8