Farm fences hold livestock of various types. The animals you want to contain and your budget dictate the type of fencing materials required. The most common materials farmers use for large pastures holding horses or cows are post and wire.
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Things you need
- Wooden fence posts or T-posts
- Smooth or barbed fence wire
- Wood or metal marker stakes
- Fence pliers
- Posthole digger
- Long tape measure
- Fencing staples
Decide where you need to access your pasture and mark the gates. Gates should be a minimum of 10 feet wide, big enough to drive a pickup or tractor through.
Determine the corners. If the corners are at or near the property line, know the precise boundaries. If in doubt, have the land surveyed first.
Drive stakes you can easily spot from the far corner along each line. If the fence runs up and over a hill, drive a stake at the top that you can see from both ends to keep your fence line straight.
Decide whether your pasture needs right angles at each corner. If you need a true rectangle, set a stake for the corner post closest to your gate or barn as a starting point.
Use a tape measure to measure across the barn end of your pasture and set a stake for the second corner post. Measure or count steps down the next side and drive in the third stake. Measure across the same distance as you did at the barn end and drive the fourth stake.
Square up the rectangle by measuring diagonally from Stake 1 to Stake 3, and from Stake 2 to Stake 4, as shown. If the distances are uneven, move one of the corner stakes in or out until the diagonal measurements are even.
Orient the Pasture
Decide the best materials for the type of livestock you are holding. Cattle will push right through smooth wire. Barbed wire can easily tear horses' skin. Decide between post and rail, field fence or wire, sleepers or treated corner posts.
Determine whether you will need electric wire to reinforce the fence. An electrical fence requires special wire, insulators, and a charger, which are additional expenses.
Choose corner posts. Sleepers are sturdy but not attractive; 6-by-6-inch treated timbers set in concrete last long but are expensive. Corner posts should be resistant to rot and sturdy enough to bear the tension of the wire for many years.
Choose the Materials
Use a posthole digger to dig the first corner post hole. Set the dirt aside in a bucket or mound. Don't scatter the dirt; you will need it to fill the hole back in. Dig the hole wide enough for 4 inches all around the post.
Dig the hole, at a minimum, 36 to 40 inches deep for an 8-foot post. Some people recommend digging the hole half the length of the post. Your livestock fence should be at least 4 feet high, so use your best judgment with regard to sturdiness and how well the posts will stand up in the soil.
If using concrete, stand the post in the hole, level it vertically, and fill the hole with concrete. Brace the post with 2-by-4-inch timbers or stakes until the concrete hardens.
Set posts that do not use concrete by levelling the post vertically and shovelling the dirt from the hole back in around it. Stop frequently to pack the dirt down around the post with a heavy bar, a 2-by-4, or the handles of the posthole digger. Rock the post to settle the dirt and tamp it down often. Mound remaining dirt around the post. Pack in enough material to hold the post and give you room to shift the post in the hole as needed to level it or align it with the fence line.
Set brace posts 4 to 6 feet away on each side of the corner posts to keep them from leaning. Wire fences put a great deal of tension on corner posts, and frost and rain loosen the soil around them.
Cross-brace the corner post by cutting a 4-by-4-inch treated timber to the length between the corner and the brace post. Mount the bracing timber between the corner and brace posts about two-thirds of the way above the ground, levelled horizontally. Nail the brace timber in place, or use lag bolts or long screws to secure it.
Set Corner Posts
Determine the number of posts: Measure the distance between the brace posts and divide by the distance between fence posts. T-posts or 4-inch round wooden posts for wire are set 12 to 16 feet apart.
Tie a string at the first corner post and run it the length of one side, or roll out a strand of fence wire from corner post to corner post. Pull it tight and secure it to get a straight line for setting posts. If the string is on the outside edge of the first post, it also should be run to the outside edge of the second corner post.
Set gate posts before setting other posts in that line. If using commercially made metal gates or building wooden gates, hang them first before putting in any other posts, to make sure you set the gate posts correctly.
Before setting gate posts, measure the gate (with latch hardware, if used) and hinges, and then measure the distance between the hinge post and the latch post. The gate should swing freely without rubbing, yet not leave a gap big enough for an animal to get through.
Step off or measure the distance between fence posts and mark or lay a post down every 12 to 16 feet along the line. Even them up as you go.
Dig a hole for wooden posts at each mark down the string line, not less than 36 inches deep for 8-foot posts. Set them in the same manner as the corner posts.
Keep the posts even by setting them with the face of the post just touching the string guide when the post is vertically level.
Use a post driver to drive in T-posts. They must be set with the flat side facing the same way, usually into the pasture so that electric wire, if used, will be on the inside.
Set Fence Posts
Allow time for the concrete around corner posts to set well before stringing fence wire, usually a day or two. Wires put a lot of tension on the corner posts.
Secure one end of the roll of barbed or smooth fence wire to the first corner post (staple it or wrap the end around itself until you can secure it permanently). If running four wires, start 12 inches above the ground and run one wire every 10 inches above that. If running three wires, space them a little wider.
Roll the wire out the length of the side. Two people using a bar run through the roll can do this quickly and easily. If needed, build a stand for your tractor hitch or pickup bed that allows it to unravel as you drive down the field.
Cut the wire 4 to 6 feet past the second corner post. Using a fence staple, secure the wire loosely to the corner post at the same height you started with at the first corner. Don't pound the staple all the way in.
Tighten the wire gently. Pull it "hand tight" and have a helper pound in a staple to secure it, or attach the 4-foot "tail" to your tractor or car hitch and pull the wire tight through the staple. Even though the wire may look loose, it is tight when you start fastening it to posts.
Secure the free end of the stretched wire by stapling it tight to the corner post. Over-sinking the staple could break the wire, and you may at some point need to get the staple back out, so drive it in flush but no farther.
Fasten the rest of the wire to individual posts at the same height as at the corners. Clip the wire against the flat side of metal T-posts using the special wire clips that came with the posts. Keep the wire level from post to post.
Crimp the ends of the clips with fence pliers so they don't pop off the wire.
Staple the wire to wooden posts; be careful not to break the wire.
Wrap the long ends of the wire around the corner posts and staple them down. Cut or staple any sharp ends of wire to avoid injury to your livestock.
String the Wire
Create a gate out of wire by running three or four strands from the "hinge" gate post to a 4-inch pole cut to 4 feet in length.
Wrap the ends of the wire around the pole at the same height as the fence wires and staple them down.
Loop a strand of wire around the bottom of the "latch" gate post 1 foot off the ground and staple it to the post. Run a second loop to catch the top of the gate pole. Set the gate pole in the bottom loop and drop the top loop over the pole.
Tips and warnings
- Different types of livestock require different types of fence. Ask the clerks at the farm supply store to clarify whether certain posts, wire, or gates are the right type to hold your animals.
- Everything in this article can be done by one person, but the work will go much easier and faster with two or more.
- Be careful when stretching wire. Serious injury or property damage could occur if a fence wire breaks.
- Run a strand of electric wire inside the main fence if you use barbed wire with horses.
- Wear gloves when handling barbed wire. Use staples and fence clips to reduce injuries.
- Sleepers are heavy, and handle them with care, preferably by two people.