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Fence as a Management Tool. by Rodney Todd OSU Extension Rational livestock control is the key to intensive management of pasture forage. Management A tool to control animals; forage growth, availability and utilization. A tool to provide forage plant rest and recovery.

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Fence as a management tool
Fence as a Management Tool


Rodney Todd

OSU Extension

  • Rational livestock control is the key to intensive management of pasture forage.

Fence as a management tool1


A tool to control animals; forage growth, availability and utilization.

A tool to provide forage plant rest and recovery.

A tool used to control feed cost.


Planning, Design and Construction


Fence as a Management Tool


Fences are personal property, not real estate.

They can be depreciated, because they do.

They are NOT permanent.



Like horses, there=s no such thing as a Afree@ fence.

They require care and use, or they are more liability than asset.

“Don’t tie up more resources in fencing than you can effectively use.”


Relative cost

Tubular steel panels $30,000 per mile

Split Rail $20,000 per mile

Buck and Pole $10,000 per mile

Net Wire $4000 per mile

Multi-strand High Tensile $3000

Barbed Wire, 4-strand $2000 per mile

Single-strand Electrified Steel Wire $500/mile

Single, temporary Polywire $50/mile/use

Relative Cost

Permanent fences




“Permanent” Fences


  • Match fencing tools to Resources

  • Plan, monitor, revise

Paddock designs
Paddock Designs

  • Hub and Wheel

    • Central water, gathering point

  • Texas Block

    • Water in every paddock

  • New Zealand Block

    • Lane to water and paddocks

  • Strip Break

    • Front and back fence

    • Frequent moves

Water location

Water limits paddock design.

Water will control utilization.

Water in every paddock ideal.

Permanent water points become focus of nutrient export and animal impact.

Lanes to water can become seasonal “sacrifice areas.”

Water Location

Paddock shape

Round would be most “efficient” cost per acre.

Squares better than long rectangles.

What about wheel shapes?

Straight lines preferred only for high tension designs.

Low tension fences offer flexible shapes.

More wires = More tension

Paddock Shape

Paddock number and size

At some point management requirement will increase faster than benefit of additional paddock numbers.

Paddock size is relative to feed resource and animal numbers.

“Think animal-time units (eg. Herd- days), not just acres.”

Because feed resource (animal-days per unit area) changes with season, paddock size, duration of stay, or stocking rate must also vary.

Paddock number influences REST period, the key to forage management.

Paddock Number and Size

Fence alignment

Should separate soil types than benefit of additional paddock numbers.

Upland vs. Lowland

Dryland vs. Irrigated

Well- vs. Poorly-Drained

Sandy vs. Clayey

Vegetation types

Riparian, meadow, forest

Different pasture species mixes


Fence Alignment

Construction and maintenance

“Quality materials and proper installation will pay future dividends in labor and maintenance savings.”

“If you don’t have time and money to do it right, when will you have time and resources to do it over?”

Construction and Maintenance

Conventional fences

“Must create an effective barrier.” dividends in labor and maintenance savings.”

Follow time tested design and construction guidelines.

Extension, NRCS

Materials manufacturers, distributors

Conventional Fences

Electric fences

“The most important innovation in livestock control in history.”

“Primarily a training device.”

Electric Fences

Wire types important

Choice based on Usage: history.”



Strength/Service Life


Simpler is usually better!

“Multiple wires increase management exponentially.”

Wire Types Important!

Post selection

Insulation Properties history.”





Fewer conductors = greater post spacing

Posts vs. Stays

Post Selection

Charger energizer selection

Use an adequate capacity charger for the type, material and fence size.

Low Impedance = less than 0.3 milli-seconds

Use battery type only when necessary.

Solar chargers are convenient, but costly.

Provide plenty of grounding!

Charger/Energizer Selection

Energizer power ratings

“Miles of Fence”--almost useless! fence size.

Joule Ratings not Standardized

Joule = power X time (horsepower- hour)

Joule = Watt-Second or .00000037 hp-hr

Work Potential at Specified Resistance?

Energizer Power Ratings

Trouble shooting tips

Use logical test procedures. fence size.

No substitute for accurate measurements.

Electricity is rational, people aren’t.

“When looking for faults and shorts, hunches sometimes work, if not see rules above.”

Trouble Shooting Tips

Essential tools

Voltage tester fence size.

Essential for trouble shooting

Digital meters best for fine tuning

Ground checks

Monitoring line losses


Protect from wire, fiber glass and shocks

Proper reels for conductors

Post drivers

DVM and/or Hydrometer for batteries

HT Wire cutters

Crimp sleeve tool

Essential Tools

Future fences

Lighter weight materials fence size.

More durable posts and conductors

“Fenceless” fences

Remote control/location/monitoring using GPS and GIS technologies

“PCS for cows.”

Future Fences