I have been toying with the idea of introducing cows to our smallholding, but the thought of upgrading all our fences is a little daunting, to say the least. From what I’ve experienced of cows, they perceive fences primarily as scratching posts and then as items requiring mass destruction.
So, that left me wondering: what is the best fencing for cattle, and how do you ensure that fencing keeps your cows in while deterring predators? Well, find out, I did.
The best cattle fencing is generally a high-tensile, fixed-knot fence like the Bekaert Corporation’s Solidlock 30 High Strength Fixed Knot Fence. However, in some cases, barbed wire fencing or hinged joint fences might be best for your cows.
As I’m getting to grips with the technicalities of the best fence for cattle, I thought I’d share my insights with you. First, I’ll share all my best ideas for creating cattle fencing to keep the cows in while keeping unwanted visitors out. I’ll also help you understand why each type of fencing listed below may be the best option for your herd.
So, let’s get moo-ving on it!
- How Do I Choose the Best Fence for Cattle?
- The Best Permanent Fencing for Cows
- Other Ideas & Options For the Best Fencing for Cattle
- Additional Cattle Fencing Costs and Materials
How Do I Choose the Best Fence for Cattle?
What type of fencing you choose for your cows will depend, in part, on their breed and usage.
Beef cattle tend to be bigger and tougher, requiring stronger fences than dairy cows. So if you’re getting bulls and cows, your best fence for cattle will need to be stronger again and a little higher.
It would be best to consider what other animals will come into contact with your fence.
You may need a fence that’s robust enough to keep predators away from your precious calves. On the other hand, you might need to consider wildlife-friendly fencing if deer or pronghorn are liable to cross it.
Costs will also influence your final decision, and you need to factor in the upfront cost of materials, the cost of fence maintenance, and the expected lifespan of your best fence for cattle.
There are also legal concerns to take into consideration.
In California, for instance, barbed wire fences are banned in residential areas unless “it is at least seven (7) feet above ground level and not visible from any adjacent public street.” At the same time, the State of Montana has a long list of requirements which, if you fail to meet them, could land you in legal hot water.
Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best Fence For Cattle
1. Aim for a Height of at Least 54 to 60 Inches
Regardless of the type of cattle fencing you end up opting for, your fence height needs to be at least 49 inches high. However, if you plan on getting bulls, the fence must be between 54 to 60 inches tall.
That measurement only accounts for the part of the fence that sits above ground. Your fence posts need to be even longer, which we’ll discuss next:
2. Corner Posts
Strong corner posts are the foundation for any reliable best fence for cattle.
Your corner posts need to be planted deep so that between a third and half of the post’s total length is underground. For instance, if you have a 6-foot pole, you’ll need to plant it at least 2 feet deep.
That means that the total length of each fence post must be at least 6 feet long, but if you have bulls, the posts must be at least 7.25 feet long.
Wire is the perfect option for cattle fencing, which is excellent news because it is so affordable. However, the wire will only keep cattle in if you tension it properly.
Regardless of your choice of wire, tension is key to durability. A well-tensioned wire fence can more easily spring back up if it gets squashed by a tree or charged by an animal.
If you want to see how it is done properly, check out this guide from Bekaert Fencing:
4. Post Spacing
Although post spacing varies depending on the type of best fence for cattle you choose, getting the spacing between the posts correct is vital for its longevity.
- For barbed wire fences, the rule of thumb is one post for every 16.5 feet.
- For high tensile wire fences, however, this can be extended to around 80 to 100 feet, or “50 posts per mile.”
5. Strands of Wire
Again, the best number of strands of wire you need for your cattle fencing will vary according to your fence type.
- Experts recommend you use around five strands in a barbed-wire fence.
- For high-tensile fencing, you should have at least 4-5 strands spaced about 10″ apart.
Bear in mind that the more intensive your approach, the more strands you need. For instance, ten cows on a smaller farm will need more strands than fewer cows with more space to roam.
The Best Permanent Fencing for Cows
The best fence for cattle “should provide both a physical and a visual barrier,” and there are a variety of options available, each with its own set of pros and cons:
1. Best Overall: High-Tensile, Fixed-Knot Fence
Fixed-knot cattle fences will “outperform traditional barbed wire and hinged-joint fences in every application with superior durability, flexibility, and safety.”
Also known as woven wire fences, these types of fences are made of interconnected horizontal and vertical wires that overlap and knot together to form a series of rectangles or squares.
This long-lasting best fence for cattle outperforms both the barbed wire and hinged joint fencing options, making it the best value for money. The lifecycle cost is minimal, and it has minimal maintenance requirements.
This is really the perfect fencing for your cattle. It has the perfect blend of affordability and strength.
2. High-Tensile and Hinged Joint Fencing
A hinge-joint field fence is a great choice for the best fence for cattle, suitable for various farm animals, including cattle, goats, sheep, and even chickens.
Also known as a farm fence, a hinged-joint fencing system consists of a four-wrap hinge joint, which in turn comprises two vertical stay wires wrapped together. This forms a knot that acts as a hinge when put under pressure. Once the pressure is removed, the fence will spring back into shape.
The spaces within a hinge-joint fence are graduated, with the narrower wire spacings at the bottom of the fence designed to deter predators and other small animals.
Hinged joint fencing forms a durable cattle fence that is only marginally more expensive to install than barbed wire but easier to maintain and less susceptible to breakage. There’s also less likelihood of your cows injuring themselves on a field fence than a barbed-wire version.
3. Cheapest: The Classic Barbed Wire Fence
Although a popular choice for larger animals, barbed wire fencing isn’t the most aesthetic or humane option. Its “barbs create an effective physical deterrent,” but they can also cause serious injury to your cows and other animals.
Often perceived as the cheapest option, barbed wire fencing is usually more expensive than electric fencing, mainly because of the maintenance costs involved.
Full barbed wire fences aren’t as popular as they once were, with many farmers and property owners using barbed wire strands in conjunction with other fencing materials.
A single strand of barbed wire at the top of a high-tensile or hinged-joint fence reduces the risk of your cattle injuring themselves but still helps to keep out predators and unwanted visitors.
Other Ideas & Options For the Best Fencing for Cattle
Sometimes, even if there’s one best fencing option overall, that won’t mean it’s the best idea for fencing in your cattle.
For example, maybe you already have wooden fencing materials you’d like to repurpose. But, on the other hand, maybe you are a tried-and-true believer in electric fencing. Or perhaps you want something cheap and easy.
Maybe you want the best fencing of all, even if that comes at a higher price.
No matter where you stand on cow fencing, here are some of our best ideas:
1. Wooden Fences
Post-and-rail field fencing is aesthetically pleasing and provides the best strength out of all fence options for cattle.
Although this fencing is perfect for bulls and all sorts of other homestead animals, it can be pricey. Therefore, I don’t recommend it for people who only want a small herd or don’t plan on getting any bulls. In these circumstances, wooden fencing can be overkill.
There’s also a hidden cost when it comes to wooden fencing: maintenance. Wooden fences rot, topple, and get a lot of wear and tear when you compare them to steel wire.
Operating costs can escalate even with wooden fencing, as cows rub on the fence posts and chew the cross poles, leading to additional costs and extra maintenance.
So, wooden fencing is only the best idea for you if you have a large herd and are prepared to invest more money in maintaining your cattle fencing.
2. Electric Fences
An electric wire fence is a great temporary fencing solution. It can be added to other types of fences, including high-tensile and farm fences, to provide an additional physical deterrent.
We’ve built some strong fences on our property using electric fence wire and permanent wooden posts, but they don’t tend to last long. The upkeep is also time-consuming as anything touching the fence wires will cause the whole thing to short.
3. Cattle Fence Panels
Did I hear your budget shriek when I recommended high-tensile fencing? If so, maybe cattle fence panels are more your speed.
While pre-welded fence panels are nowhere as durable or bounce-back-y as high-tensile fencing, these guys will get the job done.
The trick to working with these pre-made fence panels is to secure them well to some high-quality rot-resistant wooden fence posts with some heavy-duty staples. Then, stick some electric fencing on top, and you’re set!
The best part about this budget cattle fencing idea is that you can add more over time. So, for example, if an electric fence isn’t in the budget right now, you can get by with the panels for a little while while you save up.
4. Synthetic or PVC Fencing
Synthetic cattle fences last longer than any other fencing ideas on this list. But they come at a cost. A significant cost to your bank account!
PVC or vinyl cattle fences have all the benefits of wooden fencing: the looks, the sturdiness, and the versatility. However, they require very little maintenance and will last you practically a lifetime.
These fences also play very well with electric fencing since they are electric-resistant and work as insulators to keep the wire from shorting prematurely.
So, while synthetic fences for cows are pricey, they are a worthy investment if you have the cash to drop on premium fencing for your homestead.
Additional Cattle Fencing Costs and Materials
Whether you decide that high-tensile fences or barbed wire fencing systems are the best fences for your cattle, there’ll still be a few additional items you need to budget for.
Wooden fence posts are integral to livestock fencing, making treated posts a must. Additionally, the more bracing you can add and the thicker the posts, the better.
Fence posts for cattle fencing should generally be about 8 in wide and be set deeper into the ground at the corners. That means that if you want your fence to be 5 ft tall, your corner posts should be at least 8 ft long and be driven into the ground at least 2.5 ft deep (1/3 of the post’s length).
You should also consider adding cross-bracing near your corners.
Staples For Wire Fencing
Staples play an essential role in “the overall strength and longevity of the fence,” so choosing the right ones is crucial.
For example, if you’ve opted for softwood poles, you should consider 1 ¾” galvanized staples with additional barbs. For hardwood posts, a standard 1½” smooth staple is ideal.
Insulators for Electric Fencing
If you’ve decided to include a couple of electric strands at the top and bottom of your fence, you need suitable insulators and a fence charger, cabling, and grounder rods.
Don’t forget – you also need some gates, especially if you want to cuddle your cow occasionally.
What’s The Best Cattle Fencing Idea For You?
With the correct planning and preparation, you can construct the best fence for cattle that is visible, durable, cost-effective, and safe.
While barbed wire provides a strong physical deterrent, it’s not wildlife-friendly and could leave your cows with festering wounds and scratches.
The standard hinge-joined farm fence is a suitable option for a smaller property and a smaller herd. However, for aesthetic purposes, you may prefer a wooden fence which, although durable, tends to be less cost-effective.
A woven wire or high-tensile, fixed-knot fence offers the best fencing solution for cows, combining longevity with low input costs and minimal maintenance.
Better still, even if your cows decide to make a break for it, they should come out of the experience unscathed.