"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Forever Fence (Is It a Myth?)

If I could go back in time, there are a lot of things I would do differently here on the farm. Well, yes, of course, seriously, there are a LOT of things I would do differently in many areas of my life, but I'm not going there (yes, I mean you, Bad Boyfriend 1994-1997)

But let's just talk about fences. First off, I might actually have paid more attention to real estate listings that listed "fenced and cross-fenced" among the assets of the property. I had no freaking idea how expensive fencing is - and you probably don't either. This property had no fences at all when we moved onto it. I wanted to make three pastures so I could rotate, which added up to about 2,500 linear feet, plus four gates.

I went to the local professional fencing place and talked about my options. Since I wanted goats, I looked at really secure fences like five foot chain link, or five foot split rail with field fencing tacked on. As soon as I discovered that those options would run me somewhere between 9 and 14 dollars per linear foot, I coughed spasmodically and exited the building, pretending to have something caught in my throat.

Even cheap welded field fencing costs about $1/linear foot, and the six foot t-posts cost six bucks apiece. Then you have to buy wooden posts and set them in cement on every corner and everywhere there is a break in the fenceline, like at gates. This is just materials cost, you understand. So of course, that's what we decided to go with.

Turns out, there was still a lot we didn't know about fencing. Like, for example, you really really need to have some way of pulling the field fencing very very tight between t-posts. Something with superhuman strength, like a tractor. If you just have a couple of guys, one pulling and the other clipping the fence onto the post, in a few months what you have is droopy wobbly fences. And if you further try to skimp on manpower and money by just using t-posts at your corners instead of posts set in cement, what you get is this:

A fence that looks like it was constructed by a couple of dumb monkeys. Which, in fact, it was. Clearly, as anyone who knows goats can see, this fence is not much of an obstacle. What you can't see in this picture is that our young orchard is right on the other side of this fence. So far, we have lost five trees to the goats, and several others are hanging on by the skin of their teeth (so to speak).

If I could go back in time, I would have spent more money on the fence in the first place. But I didn't and I can't so now I have to re-do. After going back to the professional fencing store to price the cost of fencing in just the one pasture closest to the fruit trees, and again being blown right back out the door by the sheer audacity of asking ten thousand dollars to fence in one 100 x 100 foot pasture, I decided on cattle panels.

Cattle panels are stiff welded fence panels that come in a variety of heights and gauges and lengths. The ones I bought are 4.5 feet high and sixteen feet long. The advantage of them is that they will (probably) contain both the goats and the horses; that we can use the existing t-posts to fasten them to; that they do not need to be professionally installed; and that the cost is about one sixth that of chain link. That is, they are still expensive - just to fence in that one pasture will be about $1,800 - but not absolutely prohibitively so.

As for the other 1,900 linear feet of fences - I haven't the vaguest notion. I'm hoping that if I have one really really secure pasture, I can keep the goats in it most of the time, and then when I put them in the other pastures - which are quite a bit larger - they will be so happy they won't try to escape. Hey, it might work.

And before you suggest electric fences, I have to admit that we have tried. We have tried and tried. We have not been able to keep an electric fence functional for more than a couple of weeks. Initially, it is intensely gratifying to watch a troublesome goat get the shit shocked out of him, but the charge gets progressively weaker until you can grasp the wire in your bare hand and feel only a semi-unpleasant thrumming.

We are a couple of dumb monkeys, remember?


el said...

Girl. I am still stupidly going to suggest electric fencing.

We have but two goats but they're Alpines: they LOVE to climb. It's okay. We've got a 42" high fence, two lengths at 82' each, connected to a solar-powered rechargeable battery. Granted, we've *only* used it for 5 months, but...they're still in it. And I believe the setup ran less than $500.

We move it around our 4.9 acres, every week gets a different trimming treatment by the goats. So far so good.

However, their permanent loafing area around their shed? Cattle panels. And yes, they can climb out. But they're not interested in climbing unless we're late to letting them out to their happy foraging grounds...

~Tonia said...

Fence here is not near as expensive there but We do the electric fence because one its movable if needed!
My charger for a couple of acres is for 50miles of fence wire.. We have less than 1/2 mile of wire.. You wanna talk about getting zapped???
Its a Parmak weed burner and puts out on average 14-15 joules a pulse. The closest I can come up with is about 1000watts per joule.. The goats hear the tick they make a wide path around it. My herd queen will walk between the fence and her babies despite the bucket of grain she looks at me like I am an idiot for even suggesting it..
Anyway When Kyle built fence with woven wire he threads a T-post thru the end attaches it to a come-along that is attached to a truck or tractor then pulls it tight.. Goes back and attaches clips. I was out there "helping"... And really did nothing besides hand him clips. This was on the farm we managed for a year. When that pasture flooded the Owners fence she built rolled up and came down. The part Kyle built was still standing. She couldn't be bothered to put clips along the top or bottom and had 2 clips per post and it needed 4-6 clips..
I have seen some goats climb cattle panels but not very often. I use them around my barn to lock the goats in when needed and of course my barn is made from them. My bucks are in cattle panels because I tried keeping one buck in with electric and he would just grit his teeth and run.. But that was with my old charger so this one may work better.
I advertised on craigslist I was looking for T-post and panels and came up with quite a bit of stuff. My fence post pretty much bran new I paid $2 a piece for and Ihave gotten odds and end panels from different places..Hope you get something figured out soon..

Olive said...

Aimee, NO fence will contain a goat that has its heart set on getting to the other side? :c))
We used permapine posts with ringlock wire with stardroppers in between. My husband can manage to do it by himself with the aid of 3 wire strainers, one on the top row, one in the middle and the last on the bottom. stretching the wire evenly between the posts where he fixes it in position with heavy duty staples. Then one or two droppers in between each post, depending on the distance between posts. The only thing that goats would probably need deer fencing to keep them in (about 5ft. high) and that can be rather expensive.
We tried electric fencing too but found that was unreliable.

daharja said...

Gosh, time to get rid of the goats, I reckon!

Seriously, our place (a tiny 3 acres) is well fenced, but we still want to sub-fence, and are freaking at how much it will cost.

We keep putting it off, but next season we're establishing a woodlot, and unless we want to tree-protect each individual tree, more fencing will need to be done.


AnyEdge said...

You do yourself an injustice. It was done by two dumb APES. Unless you've been hiding tails?

Nekkid Chicken said...

I just love your candor. We too have learned the 'horrible fenced' in truths. We are still in the decision making process.

Hats off to ya, girlie!
Good Morning

polly's path said...

my hubby is the fence master around here. He likes to build stuff, so he has really taken his time and used old telephone posts for the corners and gates and pressure posts, and they are all set in 4 feet deep with concrete. He just is that serious about his fences. We did t-posts otherwise, and he had a stretcher made by a welding friend. the stretcher attaches to the front of a truck, and you pull till the fence is straight, then clip...last summer we also added a wooden rail fence to the front of our property, 6 feet in front of the metal fence, as another measure but also to sort of unify the look of the place(my idea). I don't even want to think about the money we have put into fences, just to think that generally no fence can stop a goat who wants to get out...Our electric fence is one of those solar powered cattle fences, and I turn it off when hubby is not watching. I hate it when a baby goat gets shocked...

Ken and Mary of Fancy Fibers Farm, Texas said...

We feel your pain! We bought 15 acres that had only the barest concept of fencing, i.e., rusting barbed wire that may or may not have held in the cattle on our old Texas cattle place. We eventually went with some wire fencing especially for goats (goat tuff, heavy duty, graduated squares that are smaller at the bottom and each row gets bigger) and oil field stem (pipes)on the perimeter with cross-fencing using t-posts. This cost some ungodly amount of money that my DW still has never revealed to me. We got the wrong people to put up the first section. Locals with only the barest concept of work ethic. When stretched correctly (didn't require tractor, just 2 stretchers) it's remarkably taught, but our guys didn't, long story. We've never had any goat escapes thru or over the fence and it's still in good repair, but then again it's only been a year. One problem we've found is that drought causes problems with the concrete holding and overexuberant goats bashing it will loosen it, requiring some work. Fencing is definitely something we didn't really pay enough attention. We've been lucky, as the DW's brother is quite an accomplished welder and such and he does good work for a low price. Good luck with your fences

Aimee said...

K&M what a cool site you have! But if your only goats are Angoras, I'm surprised you've had fencing issues. They don't climb like dairy goats. We used to have alpacas too and ours never challenged the fences. Good luck with your fiber farm!

Apple Jack Creek said...

Ooooh, we're not the only ones!

We are fencing for sheep - and honestly, they're about as hard to contain as goats.

What we EVENTUALLY (after many failed experiments) settled on is woven wire on *wooden* posts put in every 10 feet (around here wooden posts are actually cheaper than barbed, and we can put them straight in the ground, no cement needed, even at corners, AND you can staple the wire right into them, which helps with tightening over long runs). We build "Hs" at the corners (2 wooden posts about 2' apart, with a wooden cross brace - or 2 or 3 - between them - also handy for climbing over). Then you put one strand of barbed wire along the bottom, about an inch up, tight (it's easier to tighten barbed wire than woven). Then the 4' woven goes up an inch above that or so (we use the fence tightener ratchet thingie pulling against a t-post threaded through the woven squares and braced on a quad/truck/bobcat - something heavy, in other words). Then, another strand of barbed wire (tight) along the top. So far, that works best.

We have hilly land, so in some areas, we use 5-6 strands of barbed wire, again pulled very tight (my DH found some really cool inline fence tighteners that work awesome - you wrap them around the wire and leave them in place, and they hold it snug), with posts put more like every 8 feet.

I swear all the people who write books on fencing live in Saskatchewan, where the land is flat for miles and miles. None of the stuff we read actually worked on our hills and valleys ... but so far, with our trial and error learnings, we're mostly keeping critters where they belong. :)

The lamb that got to my apple tree though.....

Anonymous said...

I am going to suggest electric also. I have Saanens (large dairy goats) and I have no trouble keeping them in. I use 5 strands of high tensile wire 42" high on wooden posts with a six joule AC powered charger. Its wired Hot Ground Hot Hot Ground top to bottom. When I have all the fences charged I get about 4500 volts and I don't have to weed the fence lines. If you stray touch with your hand, you'll talk about it, if it goes across your chest or you nudge it with your head it will knock you to the ground.

Since I am doing intensive grazing, electric makes subdividing into daily paddocks easy.

High tensile fencing isn't cheap, but it is much less than woven wire. And much less labor to put up.

Every place is different and what works here may not work there, but I have had very good service from my eletric fence.

Anonymous said...

Got a kick out of your fencing blog... we too had no fence on our property, at the time we purchased 15 years ago I was not aware of my hubby's hidden farming obsession (he grew up on a small farm), never thought we would have larger livestock, etc. but retirement came along for him and here we go...Well we have added onto the barn now for the 4th time and it is about the biggest barn I've ever seen, but you know we needed a place for the cows, pigs, possibly goats, etc, and of course an area to milk, store hay, feed, etc... now onto the fencing. Our ground is very hilly (actually more like a mountain in some parts) just the two of us started on building a "proper woven wire fence" but old father time has gotten the best of us and we decided to hire out the construction of it.. expensive to say the least, even though we had already purchased the wire/posts, etc. It is due to be put up this month, hopefully it will look like a farm fence out of a magazine for all the $$$. My son has goats and pigs and limited resources and I must say his "first" fence bore a fine resemblence to yours too.. Love your blog :)