How to construct the perfect livestock fence
You can expect a livestock fence to last from 20 to 30 years if you install it correctly. Michael Ford, a fencing contractor who is a champion, spent the day with James Andrews to see how this should be accomplished.
Anyone can try putting up a livestock fence, but for a job to last long and last properly, you’ll need a lot of experience and skill.
One of the best stock fencing contractors in the UK, Mike Ford has a trophy cabinet filled with trophies from fencing competitions.
If you are going to add straining posts, turning posts, gateways or stiles, you should have a rough idea where they will go before you begin. Having this information before placing your fencing order will prevent you from having to constantly check in with the supplier.
2. Restraint posts
At each end of the fence, it is essential to have a sturdy straining post that won’t move when you increase tension. Use 8ft posts with a diameter of 6-7 inches, and drive them into the ground with the post-knocker to the desired depth. Approximately 45 inches of posts need to protrude from the ground for a decent cattle fence.
The strainer post should have a shallow notch around 18 inches off the ground. You don’t want to put it too high, as it could jack the post out of the ground instead of supporting it. The notch must also be shallow in order for the post to remain strong and not show the untreated core of the wood. For the strut to sit in, you will need to dig a trench about a foot deep; you will also need railing to serve as a bearer. The track should be at least a foot long, and if the ground is soft, it should be longer.
Shape the end of the strut so that it corresponds with the notch on the strainer. It should fit snugly between the strainer post and the bearer. Commonly, the first fence post is braced against the strut, but this won’t last. You can also use box struts, but they aren’t usually as sturdy as a correctly executed diagonal strut.
4. Reversing posts
Turning on a standard post should never be attempted – always use a turning post. If you use a 7ft post with a 5-6in diameter, you can get away with smaller posts.
5. Strand at the bottom
Put a strand of plain wire between the strainers and turning posts, about 1 inch off the ground. By doing this, you get a starting line for the rest of the posts and can also raise the fence height on a budget.
6. Posts of interest
The spacing between posts varies depending on the type of wire and the conditions. A good contractor using high-tensile wire could easily extend the post spacing to 20ft for mild steel wire, but not more than 11ft.
7. Posts at gates
It is not wise to strain fences off a gatepost since they will be pulled about over time. A strainer post should be installed about 3 ft away from the gatepost and rails should be inserted to cover the space between them.
8. Using netting as a cover
If you can afford it, use high-tensile wire and wrap it around the staining post first. Use a half hitch knot to tie the wire to the post – this allows the wire to slide and tighten around the post as it tensioned. The wire should also placed in the center of the post and the vertical strand should cut out so it can pulled neatly into line.
9. Connecting nets
On one of the pieces of wire to joined, tie a series of loops using half hitch knots. Next, thread the tails of the second wire through the first, and tie them off with half hitch knots. There shouldn’t be any kinks in the wire and the joint should be neat and even.
10. Tightening netting
The only system that allows you to accurately tension wire is ratchet clamps and chains. In order to pull in a livestock fence run of 300 feet, you will need to leave a gap of 6-9 feet, while for longer runs of 1,300 feet, you will need 23-26 feet.
Check the kinks in the wire to ensure the right tension applied. Wire tension is correct when two-thirds of these have pulled out. Its spring will disappear if the kinks removed.
Don’t hammer the staples in so deeply that they crimp the wire. Secure the fence with barbed staples. The galvanized coating on the wire will damaged and it could snap over time.