Fencing, Pasture Design and Chargers at Oak Hill & Barakah Farm
May 14, 2016
I’m in the process of updating all the fencing at our new location Barakah Farm, so this is a great time to revisit the principles and materials. For those new to this blog, we are fencing in goats, horses (mares, foals, stallions), sheep (planned), donkeys, a milk cow (planned) and livestock guardian dogs, and fencing out stray dogs and predators.
We use five types of fences:
The perimeter fence is permanent and keeps all the animals from leaving the property, and keeps predators from entering. This fence must withstand all exit and entrance attempts and work during power failures or deep snow.
The fence that divides the runways and rotational pastures must be browser- and grazer-proof but does not have to contain the livestock dog or keep predators out.
The third type of fence surrounds the goat and sheep night pens and must be resist all entrance and exit attempts and work during power failures or snow.
The fourth type of fence encloses the horse, donkey and cattle corrals. It must meet the requirements of the goat/sheep night pens plus be strong enough to resist the heavier pressure from large livestock in close quarters.
The fifth type of fence is used for intensive rotation grazing. It must be portable and work for all the browser and grazers. It does not have to function during deep snow or power failures.
First, the perimeter. I chose electric fencing for the perimeter at Oak Hill, and I’m sticking with it at Barakah. Barakah came with existing high tensile electric fencing, so we are maintaining that and using wide tape fence where we need to increase the perimeter. HorseGuard is still my favorite web fence. I have seen no other company with such high-quality tape fence. Other brands do discolor or sag over time. http://www.horseguardfence.com/ HorseGuard makes a 1 1/2″ tape fence with stainless steel wires. This fencing held up well in tests for weathering and high winds, is highly visible to the horses, and will break if a horse gets seriously tangled up, while withstanding lesser impacts without damage. I’ve had this fencing for almost 20 years now, and it made the move to Barakah to be reinstalled. I’ve had trees fall on the fence, trucks drive over it, had lightening strikes, high winds – the fence still looks as good as the day I installed it and carries a charge well. I had one small section lose all it’s wires and terminals from a direct lightening hit. I use 5 strands, with the top at 5 feet, 3 strands at the bottom 8 inches apart and one strand to fill in the gap between. In a pinch I will use HorseGuard for the top 2 strands and high-visibility electric rope or narrow tape for the bottom 3 strands. If you opt for the cheaper option on the lower strands, plan on regular checks and maintenance as the bottom strands will get damaged over time. Time is money, so investing in the lower-maintenance option can pay you back. I find heavy duty T-posts with a safety cap hold up better than wood posts over time.
TIP: In any spots where the horses might not spot the fence I zip tie a solar light on top of the t-post. For a blind horse, add an inexpensive child’s pinwheel to the top. The horse will hear the sound of the wheel turning.
Second,the runway fence and main pasture dividers. For this fence that creates the runways and divides the pastures, I’ve used some less expensive electric tape fence that is 1″ wide at the top and twisted plastic and wire for the lower strands. I’ve noticed that this less expensive fencing stretches much easier than the HorseGuard and is already sagging in spots. I’ve set the inner fence at 4 feet for the top, and the 3 lower strands at 9″, 18″ and 24″ above the ground to contain the goats and sheep (planned). I used shorter lightweight permanent T-posts with safety caps for this fence.
The goat and sheep night pen fencing is 4 or 5 foot welded wire on wooden posts or t-posts with wooden top and bottom boards and a single strand of electric around the bottom on the outside of the pen plus a second strand of electric around the top. Dog kennel fencing also works well, with the added electric strands. The bottom strand has a separate kill switch to turn it off during deep snows. Wooden pallets can be dropped over tall t-posts and an additional
The horse, donkey and cattle corrals are wooden board (oak) with locust or treated posts or metal pipe round pen panels. I chose wood or metal pipe to have a fence that would withstand pressure from confined horses and work even during extended power outages.
The high-density grazing temporary fence for the goats I am still playing with. For small numbers and small areas, several cattle or hog panels clipped or tied together are easy to move around. For larger areas, I have step-in posts and wire rope fence. It tangles easily when I move it. I suspect I will change this system.
Let’s talk a bit more about the runways for the horses. Runways have quite a few advantages. First, you can use them year-round and not damage your pastures. Second, the narrow width combined with an opening in front encourages horses to keep moving forward. Horses have been proven to move more in a day on a track or runway system rather than in a field. Finally, you can remove all the vegetation if you need to and have hay stations, for folks that need to control grazing.
Here is an earlier version of the bottom runway, and the exercise yard in the woods with plenty of granite to walk over. I have since changed the number and spacing of strands.
The runway at Oak Hill had to cross our pea gravel driveway to access the woods. The posts are set into buried concrete building blocks, so that the posts can be easily lifted out of the way to use the driveway.
Foster and Lucky enjoying their favorite spot under the maple at the top of the runway.
The horses use runways for exercise, and pastures just for eating. You can read more about runways and runway design at www.paddockparadise.com
We do rotate the goats and sheep (planned) onto the runways periodically to clear the brush and weeds.
The fence charger or controller is a critical part of any electric fence system. Here are some good websites I found during my research.
Dare offers outstanding fence chargers and some handy charts and tools, including a fence planner .
Besides looking for the appropriate voltage and joules, I suggest looking for a charger with fuses you can change yourself and lightening protection. I chose at least 5 joules, to prevent voltage drop if the line touches vegetation, and also at least 4000 volts on the fenceline to handle goats, stubborn shaggy ponies and livestock guardian dogs. I narrowed my choices down to Dare and Parmak. I really liked the Dare for it’s all-weather construction and easy-to-service modular circuitry. http://dareproducts.com/products The Parmak did not have the modular circuitry. However, Parmak has a solid warranty and will repair chargers. The Parmak price was better, so I ended up with a Parmak Mark 7 (new model is the Mark 8), and it has been a dependable charger for many years.
Your fence charger will make or break your fence system, so choose with care. I personally suggest at least having night pens with non-electric fencing in case of power outages or cloudy days that could affect a solar unit.