Longevity Pasture Fencing

by: Darol Dickinson - 12-18-2018

City folk drive down the roads, listen to stereo, watch for the newest model cars, watch for road bumps and generally zip from city to city, as quick as possible. Ranch folk look out the windows and study grass species, erosion, cattle health, standing forage, breeds of livestock and conditions of pasture fences. They may glance at the sky and wonder about when it will rain. Ranchers may drive a little slower.

The fences tell the story. Maybe the land owner is very wealthy and has beautiful white plastic board fences, miles of painted pipe fence, or to the opposite, rotten posts, saggy wire and dilapidation. Fences make a statement that may reflect into the whole management program of that ranch. The first impression of a ranch is the fences, gates and entry way.

Several times a month entry level producers call and ask, "What kind of fences will contain Texas Longhorns?" The answer is that good fences are always important to, (1) keep your cattle home, and (2) keep the neighbor's bull off your place. Both important. Will Texas Longhorns stay home with weak, low, rotten fences -- no is the answer, but neither will any cattle.

Here are some fence graphics and ideas that Terry Bryant, who has build thousands of miles of professional pasture fence, will probably not need to read. However, if you are an entry level rancher, you will profit from this article.

When the post is taller than the wire it tells you, (1) the fence builder is too lazy to drive down the post, (2) the soil is so hard they should have bought shorter post. Every wire should be attached to the very top notch in the post, one way or the other.

This is a beautiful corner brace system. If the soil is often wet or soft clay two brace posts will add the longevity strength needed for a fence to last a life time and remain straight vertical. The wire is right at the top so no post is wasted. Net wire indicates it may be used for small livestock. This may be a little overkill for a normal ranch cattle fence. The post appear very close together which may also be more for show than substance. This was not the first rodeo for the fence crew who built this good corner system.

It is much easier to build fence on level ground, in straight lines.  This pretty fence is electric with screw-in insulators. Electric is great for horses and all livestock. It teaches them to respect the line fence, not push through it or scratch against it. Electric reduces the repairs over the years. Electric can be charged with 110, solar or battery. Regardless, the daily testing of the charge is necessary. When there is no electric it won't take the neighbor's bull long to come for a pasture check. These post are about 10' apart which is not necessary if strong corners are in place and the wires are tight. About 24' spacing is average. Small wood post in the Midwest will last about 15 to 20 years. It is easier to afford a pretty fence for a 5 acre operation than one much larger.

Stand-outs are often an after thought. There is an established fence which may need costly repairs. Placing electric through a one wire stand-out will contain the cows on one side, at not a lot of expense.

This corner brace system at DCC is recycled electric poles. The supports are drill stem used pipe with aluminum cable for strength. Soil is soft most of the year so corners must be tamped with rock or cemented for a 30 year longevity. Most corners at DCC are made of hard wood railroad ties.

This is a fence type used at DCC for many miles. It is a steel T post with 24' spacings 5 wires and  twist stays in the middle. Fences along roads are 5 wire with no electric. Where bulls are on both sides during breeding season all fences are electric and checked daily. Note barbwire in the top notch. This fence will last in the Midwest for 25 years, then post will rot and need replaced.

Most gates at DCC are barbwire with 1 1/4" pipe and chain links for hinges. This gate took about a half hour to build. It has 7 twist stays and a draw down gate closer. Gates are the place livestock are used to moving through, therefore gates should be the strongest part of the fence.

In the last 3 years PVC T posts are being used to replace steel and wood posts. They have a 100 year life, won't rust when used in swamps and bend slightly when deer hit them. The holes to thread electric wires are wonderful as game animals don't tear the insulators off. On the PVC post DCC uses 3 electric wires and the bottom is barbwire. The tall grass shorts out the electric.

Corrals can be made of used drill stem pipe 1.5" and that is great.

Many people start out using portable panels. When this is the system, cattle figure it out and often become savvy to go under or push it around. If portable light weight panels are used they should be anchored to posts to prevent clever cattle from escaping.

The Bry Horn-safe Crowding Panels are designed with high tensile steel and are punched to attach to posts to be a permanent corral system. Info on Crowding Panels at https://www.texaslonghorn.com/bry/index.cfm?con=panels  The Bry system are sizes 8', 10' and 12' x 52" tall. Before buying a Texas Longhorn herd, good fences and a corral are the first parts of starting a ranch.

Fences can be designed to last a long time and give wonderful service or be built economical. In this area of Ohio it is not unusual for people to attach one electric wire to a tree row and that is the containment.

Everyone decides their own design -- and gets to live with it.