Building the right fence for a farm or a ranch depends on whether the enclosure can protect small animals like sheep, chicken or goats, or larger animals like cattle and horses—the latter often requiring fencing that’s flexible because larger animals tend to run into them.

“One of our customers has thoroughbred horses who are very high-strung, and a young horse did a complete summersault over the fence,” says Jesse Fisher, owner of Chester County Fencing LLC in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. “But, because the fence was flexible, the horse was fine.”

The contractor uses a flex fence made by Centaur, which gives customers a ‘board fence look,’ but is vinyl-coated, Fisher says. Each five-inch band has three 12.5-gauge high fencing wire instead of rail.

“You get a very strong fence that’s never going to rust or decay, and it’s great for horses,” he says.

Chester County Fencing also uses no climb fencing, 2″ × 4″ × 48″ high woven wire fencing, Fisher says. That type of fencing is often built with a board on the top, and his firm typically uses 1 1/8″ × 6″ × 16′ hemlock wooden board.

“The non-climb woven wire fence will also work great for a lot of other types of animals like sheep, goats, chickens, you name it,” Fisher says.

The most common type of post the contractor uses for farm and ranch fences is treated round post. Fisher says he goes through thousands of it. Round post is typically used with woven wire fences or post and board fences, but it can be used with just about any type of form fence. Fisher recommends hot wire be installed to keep the animals off the fence, and the fence will hold up much longer with less maintenance.

“Having good quality posts are key to avoid deterioration as long as possible,” he says. “I recommend driving the posts into the ground and making sure the posts always get below the frost level, which is 32 inches here in the Northeast. So, we always want to be at least that deep with any post—otherwise you will see heaving of the post from the freezing and thawing.”

Jeff Koloski, sales manager at Cavatorta North America in Whitinsville, Massachusetts, says contractors must use proper fencing to ensure the safety and containment for the type of animals within the enclosure.

For example, when installing fencing at a horse farm, there are various types of acceptable fencing, Koloski says. One of the more common is the 2 × 4 11-gauge or 14-gauge four-foot fencing. It can be galvanized only, and Class 1 is preferred as it will last longer, or it can be galvanized and then PVC coated for a longer lasting and more aesthetically appealing fence.

“This is often run along post and rail to contain the horse,” he says. “Horse fencing must also be visible to the horses, so they won’t run into it and injure themselves.”

It is also wise to look for a quality product that may cost more up front but will provide greater savings over the lifetime of the fence, Koloski says. “When taking into consideration the labor involved to install the fence, you don’t want to have to replace it in four to five years because the fence has broken wires that could harm the horses,” he says. “Some of these ‘box store’ fences should be carefully considered to ensure the less expensive fencing is really worth it in the long run.”

Not all fencing is suitable for all animals, Koloski says. Smaller animals need a smaller mesh fencing, 2 × 1 or 1 × 1 mesh available in various gauges. For hogs and cattle, it is best to use a heavy-duty panel, 8-gauge or 11-gauge, to contain the animals as well as protect them from intruders.

“Fence maintenance is extremely important when live animals are involved,” he says. “The weather, predators, as well as the animals themselves can take a toll on fencing over the years. Loose boards and wires can injure the animals and you. The fence must be inspected regularly and especially after storms or extreme weather. Again, the safety of the animals is most important.”

For farm and ranch fences, it is not a one size-fits-all situation when determining the appropriate fencing needs, Koloski says.

“If you have doubts, it’s always best to contact your local dealer with any concerns you may have,” he says.

Ephraim Esch, owner of Esch’s Fencing LLC in Gap, Pennsylvania, says a variety of agricultural fence products are available depending upon the intended use. For instance, horse fence may consist of 2 × 4 Class 3 galvanized woven wire with a board on top, or 5″ flexible fence, which is safe and also low maintenance.

“Wood fences such as nail on board, slip board or post and rail are very popular,” Esch says. “PVC-coated wire mesh can be added to wood fences to help keep small animals in or out, and also prevent small children from climbing through the fence.”

For sheep and goats, a 4 × 4 Class 3 galvanized wire mesh is popular, as well as other types of graduated wire mesh, he says. High tensile single strand is often used for cattle but is discouraged for horses due to safety reasons. For deer deterrent, a 75″H or 8’H graduated Class 3 galvanized wire is available.

“Smaller family farms often use post and rail with wire mesh attached to keep animals, dogs or even children from wandering,” Esch says.

The first steps in planning a fence for animal containment is to consider how to protect livestock, he says. Fences should be built with rounded corners, not 90-degree corners, to keep animals from getting trapped or pushed into the corner.

“Next step is to consider how long you need this fence to last and what price can you afford,” Esch says. “Putting a strand of hot wire on a fence can help preserve its longevity.”

Things to look for in quality products, according to Esch:
• Galvanized wire: Class 3 is better than Class 1.
• Treatment: Agriculture products CCA and residential is MCA vinyl coated; Wire: Galvanized after welding, then PVC coated.
• Type of wood for treated posts: Southern yellow pine kiln dried prior to treatment.
• Type of wood for untreated posts: Black locust.
• PVA and aluminum are less maintenance, however the materials are not as strong as wood.

Esch’s installation tip: “A ranch fence with wood posts is typically installed with a post pounder, which will make a post tighter than digging.”

Riverdale’s wire mesh can be used in combination with post and board, post and rail and other multipurpose fencing, says Jane Lanzillo, spokeswoman for Riverdale Mills Corp. in Northbridge, Massachusetts. The welded wire mesh is coated with Riverdale’s proprietary PVC coating, made in-house at Riverdale Mills, which lasts for years without chipping or rusting.

“All Riverdale Mills products are galvanized after being welded, which ensures the weld formed is only from the fusion of the steel rods, which preserves the weld strength, and protects the welds and wires completely,” Lanzillo says. “The additional protection offered by an engineered PVC coating serves to further increase the performance of mesh wire intended for extremely harsh environments.”

Riverdale has extensive experience in formulating phthalate-free PVC compounds, she adds, and uses bio-based PVC formulas for many of its agriculture products to protect animals in the outside chance they are able to gnaw off bits of the fence coating.

Riverdale Mills recently worked with the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriffs Association and the directors of the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction to protect its 14-acre organic farm when the crops were being ravaged by deer and other wildlife.

“Riverdale donated deer wire to protect the perimeter of the farm, which provides over 20,000 pounds of food annually to inmates, local soup kitchens, food pantries, senior centers and veterans groups,” Lanzillo says.

While most farmers and ranchers use tractors and skid-steers for large fence installs, towable and hitch-mounted hydraulic earth drills provide multiple benefits over larger tools typically found on farms and ranches, says Mike Hale, sales and marketing manager at Little Beaver Inc. in Livingston, Texas.

“Their compact size allows these drills to access tight or limited access areas,” Hale says. “For example, skid-steers and tractors are too large to fit through a tight gate or in between two structures. Additionally, the drill’s weight is balanced over pneumatic or semi-pneumatic wheels, allowing operators to easily push the rig to the next hole and pivot into drilling position.”

Moreover, the drills can be easily transported to and from a jobsite, he says. By nature, towable and hitch-mounted drills are easy to move, with either a hitch and pneumatic tires for towing or a hitch mount bracket that acts as a carrier for the drill. Both systems require very little operator effort and eliminate the need to lift the drill on and off the back of a pickup truck.

“Towable and hitch-mounted drills, like Little Beaver’s Towable and UN-Towable, are designed to lessen the toll on workers’ bodies while making operation safe, simple and efficient,” Hale says. “For farmers and ranchers looking to access tight spaces to drill post holes, these easily maneuverable, yet powerful drills provide a simple solution.”