Many factors determine the type of cattle fence you should choose. Cattle need lot’s of room for grazing. As a result, you will need lots of fence.
Protecting the herd and keeping them contained is the number one job of the fence. Doing so without spending a small fortune is the goal.
The size of the fenced area will have a lot to do with the cost of the fence. Therefore, it will most likely also influence what type of cattle fence you choose.
In order to help you make a wise decision, let’s take a look a some of the different styles of cattle fence and discuss the pros and cons of each one.
Types of Cattle Fence
There are many types of cattle fence designs to choose from. On the simple end of things is an electrified strand of high tensile wire.
More elaborate are wooden corral style board fences. But which one is right for you? Ultimately it will be your decision. My job is to give you the information needed to make that decision.
Electric Fence for Cattle
Electric fence for cattle is simple by design. A perimeter of high tensile wire is installed. One or two strands is the most common configuration. The wires attach to a box which provides an electric current.
Known as charging units or fence energizers. Charging units and energizers come solar powered or plug into a power source. Joules are the unit of measurement for the amount of current provided by the charging unit.
The length of the fence will determine the total amount of joules needed. Therefore, the longer the fence, the more joules required.
Electric cattle fence is affordable and easy to install. However, it does have some drawbacks.
Poor grounding is one of the main problems with electric fences not working correctly. Very rocky ground and very dry ground can result in poor grounding of the fence. Poor grounding results in a weak shock or no shock at all.
Fallen trees cause breaks in electric fence rendering them useless. As a result, open spaces and pastures are better areas for electric fences for cattle. It is also easy to pull up and reinstall if needed.
Accidental damaged is another drawback to electric fences. Cattle cannot see the the thin strands of wire well. Especially in the dark. Sometimes stampeding cattle accidentally break electric fence without knowing it.
Predator control is another drawback to electric fence for cattle. Using one or two strands of wire leave big gaps between them. As result, predators can easily pass through. There fore allowing access to the herd
Barbed Wire Fence
Barbed wire fence is a popular style of cattle fence. Like electric fence, it is easy to install and affordable. 5 strands is the most common configuration. However, anywhere from 4 to 6 strands is acceptable.
Barbed wire fence flows over uneven terrain well. It is good for long lines of fence covering lots of ground. Because the twisted metal barbs are a deterrent to cattle, there is no need to electrify it.
Barbed wire fence is also prone to tree damage. However, it is easy to to fix with basic fence pliers.
Sometimes, the thin strands of wire used to manufacture barbed wire can break overtime. This can be as a result of the high amounts of tension used to stretch barbed wire fence or when it rusts through.
But at less than $100 per roll for over 1,000 feet, having extra on hand for the occasional repair won’t set you back financially.
Minor injuries to cattle can be a concern to some. The barbs are sharp. Made to poke and slice. So cattle will get cuts and scrapes from barbed wire fence.
These could cause infection. Especially from very rusty barbed wire.
Woven Wire Cattle Fence
Woven wire cattle fence comes in many different configurations. Height, gauge of wire, and size of the holes are just a few options to choose from.
Woven wire is different than welded wire. Heavier gauge strands of wire are used. A special knot ties the strands together where they intersect. Allowing woven wire to stretch tighter than welded wire fence.
It also allows the intersecting joint to flex. As a result, woven wire can follow uneven terrain much better than welded wire.
The gaps or spaces in woven wire cattle fence come in different sizes. Some mesh sizes stay constant from top to bottom. While others start off smaller at the bottom and gradually increase in size towards the top.
The smaller gaps prevent smaller animals from entering or existing the fence when contained in the same pasture as cattle. This is useful for farms that also have smaller animals such as goats and sheep.
Wood Cattle Fence
Corral style fence and crossbuck are styles of wood cattle fence. However, wood fence is more costly when compared to wire fence. As result, used for smaller pasture and or paddocks.
One advantage wood fence has over wire cattle fence is the visual element. The thicker boards give cattle a visual reference wire fence doesn’t.
This helps in preventing accidental injury to cattle. Pastures and fields lined with wood fence also give farms and ranches that classic look.
However, maintenance is a factor with wood fence. Painting and staining is a daunting task. Large cattle can easily break the horizontal rails used to build wood cattle fence. Although, adding a hot wire will help prevent cattle from breaking rails.
But, there will always be maintenance and upkeep. It is not uncommon to use wood cattle fence along roadsides and closer to barns, then switching to wire fence to fill out the remainder of the fenced in areas.
Cattle Fence Panels
Cattle fence panels are much stronger than woven wire fence and much easier to install. Thick gauged wire strands welded together form the panels. As result, they do not need stretched like other wire fences.
This eliminates the need for heavy end and corner posts with bracing. Steel “T” posts or star pickets driven into the ground hold cattle panels in place.
However, attaching them to heavier wood posts is better for more permeant solutions.
Cattle fence panels are great for temporary corals and paddocks. Allowing easy removal and relocation when needed. They are the only fence that style that allows for this.
Another bonus when using cattle panels is you don’t need a to purchase a gate. Panels remove easily to allow access. No gate or gate posts are needed.
Cattle Fence Posts
Farmers and ranchers have used many types of materials to make fence posts. Wood, steel pipe, “T” posts, star pickets and trees are all used as posts.
Whether the fence is permeant or temporary will determine how many and what kind of posts to use. The style of cattle fence will also be a determine factor.
End Posts, Corner Posts and Bracing
This is where most people screw up. They don’t use heavy enough posts or they don’t set them deep enough into the ground.
The integrity and strength of any fence comes from the end and corner posts. Especially wire styles of fence that need stretched.
Bracing is just as important. A horizontal brace connecting the end or corner post to the first line post is a must.
A truss tightening system made from tension wire is also a needed. It is crucial to have rock solid end and corner posts in order to keep tension on stretched wire cattle fence.
Wood or galvanized steel pipe are most common for end and corner posts. Don’t be afraid to go overboard here. Use a larger post diameter than you think.
Dig it a little deeper than you think. Soil density is different across the country. So there is no standard depth.
However, 48″ deep should work for most applications. Preventing pulling from tightly stretched wire and heaving from freezing ground.
Support Post for Cattle Fence
Support fence do not have to be as strong as the end and corner posts. As a result, all types of materials are used. Wood is a must for board style fence. Allowing horizontal rails to fastened to them at 8′ intervals.
“T” posts and star pickets are common for barbed wire and woven wire support posts. Spacing of 16′ on center is standard.
However, in ares with uneven terrain the spacing should be closer. High tensile electric fence can have post spacing of 50′ to 70′ between them.
Normally a metal “T” post with an insulator between the post and wire to prevent grounding. Cattle panels use both wood and “T” posts depending on the strength needed.
Cattle Fence Gates
There are only a couple good options when choosing a gate for your cattle fence. And one bad option.
The bad one is wood. Don’t use a gate made from wood. They are heavy and cumbersome. They will sag and require maintenance.
It just isn’t worth the effort. The other two options are metal farm gates and making a barbed wire gate.
Metal Farm Gates
I’ve hung every kind of gate known to man. A metal farm gate is simple to hang, easy operate and fairly in expensing. They are relatively light in weight, yet extremely durable which is good around cattle.
However, they do require a strong gate post to hang from in order not to sag. Wood or steel are both good. Set them deep like end and corner posts. Adding concrete helps keep gate posts straight and plumb.
Metal farm gates come in single panels up to 16′ wide. However, combining two to make a double gate will be much more user friendly if the gate will be open and closed often.
If gaps between the rails are a concern, there are farm gates available with welded mesh or cattle panels to them. This prevents smaller animals from squeezing between the rails.
Barbed Wire Gates
Barbed wire gates require building. They are not available for purchase. They combine the strands of barbed wire used for the fence and round wood posts or logs.
When stretched between gate posts, barbed wire gates look like the rest of the fence. Chances are you will already have the materials on hand.
The advantage of a barbed wire gate is the distance they can cover. Openings of up to 30′ wide can be covered by one gate.
Many factors influence the type of cattle fence that will work best for your personal situation. The size of the area being fenced is the biggest factor. As a result, effecting the overall cost of the project.
Wire strand fences like barbed wire and high tensile will allow you to cover more area at a lower cost. Wooden style fences will cost more, but are safer for the heard. Providing a more visual barrier.
You should choose the style and design that fits your needs the best. Providing a safe and secure enclosure for your cattle is the number one priority.
For more options and ideas on cattle fence, check out our Wooden Farm Fence Designs article. It covers more styles of wood farm and ranch fences that are also used for containing farm animals.