Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fencing at Oak Hill

I'm in the process of updating all the fencing, so this is a great time to revisit the principles and materials.  For those new to this blog, we are fencing in goats and horses and a livestock guardian dog, and fencing out stray dogs and predators.

There are five types of fences at Oak Hill:
The perimeter  fence is permanent and keeps all the animals from leaving the property, and keeps predators from entering.  This fence must be goat and horse proof, and strong.
The fence that divides the runways and pastures  must be horse and goat proof but does not have to contain the livestock dog and keep predators out. The goats are not allowed in the same encloser with the horses, as they could get trampled by a horse by accident.
The third type of fence surrounds the goat pens and must be goat and predator proof.
The fourth type of fence encloses the horse corrals.
The fifth type of fence is used for intensive rotation grazing.  It must be portable and goat proof.

First, the perimeter.  I chose electric fencing for the perimeter originally, and I'm sticking with it. Board fence is higher maintenance, and also outside my planned spending.  HorseGuard is still my favorite.  I have seen no other company with such high-quality tape fence.  Other brands do discolor or sag over time.  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 up for at least 12 years now. 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 was using a 3 strands, with the top set at 4 feet, before I added goats.  Now 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.  I used treated wooden posts the first time around.  I found that in the low spots, with my heavy clay soil, they rotted in 10 years and are snapping off in the high winds.  I am switching this time to heavy duty T-posts with a safety cap.  In any spots where the horses might not spot the fence I added a solar light on top.  For a nicer appearance, I will likely add a post cover along the driveway at some point.

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 livestock dog.  I used shorter lightweight permanent T-posts for this fence.

The goat pen fencing is 4 foot welded wire on wooden posts with wooden top and bottom boards.  The treated posts do not hold up as well as I had hoped, and need to either be replaced with thicker posts or swapped for locust.

The horse corrals are wooden board (oak) with locust posts. I chose wood 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.  Right now I have step-in posts and wire rope fence.  It tangles easily when I move it.  I suspect I will change this system.

Want to learn more 
about Oak Hill
 horse and goat management?

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 must cross our pea gravel driveway to access the woods. So that we can still use our driveway, and also get the occasional large truck through, we added a double gate. The posts are set into buried concrete building blocks, so that the posts can be easily lifted out of the way when a wider drive is needed.

Foster and Lucky enjoying their favorite spot under the maple at the top of the runway.

Above is the earlier version of the runway, before changing the fencing for goats.  You can see why we needed goats in the runway.

At Oak Hill the horses use runways for exercise, and pastures just for eating.  You can read more about runways and runway design at

We do rotate the goats onto the runways periodically to clear the brush and weeds.  Before, the goats only used the pastures and woods.  The runways got very overgrown along the edges.

The horses aren't the only critters enjoying the runways and woods corral...

This wild turkey came strolling down the new runway and into the woods corral the other day.

The fence charger or controller is a critical part of any electric fence system. Here are some good websites I found during my research. 17 Mistakes To Avoid With Electric Fencing by Wayne Burleson The article focuses on electric high tensile. However, many of the suggestions are useful for tape fencing.

Useful charts from Zareba that give fencing calculators and  joules, number of ground rods and effective distance for various chargers.

Parmak has troubleshooting and installation information

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.  The Parmak did not have the modular circuitry.  However, Parmak has a solid warranty and will repair charges. The Parmak price was better, so I ended up with a Parmak Mark 7, and it has been a dependable charger.
My Parmak.  I am very impressed with this unit.
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.

This post continues to be updated as my fencing evolves.  

Happy and safe fencing!

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