Fencing on the block

by Anonymous Author

The New Zealand Transport Agency and Police have recently issued a warning to rural residents in Selwyn to ensure any livestock is well fenced in.

The warning follows a couple of accidents around Canterbury in recent months in which drivers have been involved in serious accidents with wandering stock.

Most lifestyle properties will need fencing, especially if you’re keeping livestock.

You can either elect to do this fencing yourself, or use a contractor. While there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from doing your own fencing, it isn’t as easy as it looks, and the best advice is to start with some professional help.

Get a contractor in, work with them, watch and learn. One way to save money but still feel a sense of involvement.

Think carefully about what type or height of fence you put in. Conventional height fences are always a safe bet as you may change the type of livestock you have in the coming years.

Gate placement can make a difference as it is often difficult to get animals to go through gates in the middle of a fence line. A gateway in the corner of a paddock is easier to shift stock through. Gateways also need to be big enough for vehicles and farm machinery to fit through.

Fencing can be dangerous. Be careful with wire strainers and any wire under tension. When handling wire always wear safety eyewear and protective clothing including suitable gloves and steel capped boots. 

Fences don’t last forever — at some point they’ll need fixing or replacing. Catch problems early and you can repair them but leave things long enough and replacement will be your only practical option. Regular maintenance extends the life of a fence. Over time wires get loose, they also slacken off/tighten up as temperature changes or the ground dries out then gets wet again during the year. 

The decision whether to repair or rebuild fence lines will depend on affordability. Generally speaking, completely replacing completely decrepit fences is usually less expensive than repairing them.

What type of fencing?

When fencing, various materials and methods can be combined to provide a suitable fence for any situation. There are several types of stock fences commonly used in New Zealand.

7-9 Wire post and batten

Used commonly for boundary fencing and as a general all purpose fence. It is strong, durable, and secure. Posts are usually four metres apart, and five battens are spaced evenly between the posts. Although one of the most expensive and labour intensive fences, it will contain sheep, cattle and horses adequately in most cases.

Multi-wire electric

Depending on the type of stock being contained, different number of wires can be used, which are then electrified. 

Posts are spaced further apart, sometimes up to eight or ten metres between posts. A wide range of both wooden and steel posts can be used.

Electric fences create a mental barrier to stock. The shock that they get from the fence acts as a deterrent in future escape efforts. This is opposed to the post and batten fence which simply provides a physical barrier.

Because electric fences require fewer materials, they are usually cheaper, easier and faster to erect, however security and longevity can be sacrificed. 

Sheep netting

Sheep netting is wire netting, about a metre high, with wooden posts. It is ideal for sheep, and other small or young stock such as calves. It is also adequate for large stock when one or more outriggers are added to either the top or side of the netting.

Deer fencing operates on exactly the same principles as sheep netting, except on a larger scale. 

Post and rail

Used commonly with horses as it is highly visible. Spooked horses have been severely injured after running through wire fences, particularly fences using high tensile wire. Most horses are kept within wire fences however, so it comes down to a personal choice.

Post and rail fencing is also used around houses and driveways as it is aesthetically pleasing. Posts are usually two metres apart, with between three and four wooden rails. It can be difficult to get it looking straight and level without a high level of expertise. Post and rail fences are very secure with larger animals, especially when accompanied with an electric wire to prevent stock rubbing. It has a high cost per metre when compared to other fences.

Temporary and semi-permanent fences

Semi-permanent — There are a wide range of materials available, such as electric tape and poly-wires, varying in different sizes and thicknesses. As well there is a range of semi-permanent type steel posts, such as Warratahs and Kiwitahs. Often used on lease blocks, or as a quick fix option. This type of fence is very cheap and easy to build. The disadvantages are the deterioration of the fence over a few years, and these fences require more regular maintenance.

Temporary — Electric plastic tape usually wound up on a hand held reel.

It is used mainly for cattle and horses to subdivide an existing paddock, usually on a day by day basis. It uses ‘electric fence standards’ which are lightweight and about a metre in height.

They have a steel peg at the bottom which you press into the ground with your foot and a loop to hold the electric tape at the top. They are put up, and taken down, at the pace at which you can walk.

They are the least secure of any type of fence and require a good electric current and stock which are trained with electric fences.

If unsure of the best type of fence for your situation, speak to other people and find out what works for them and what doesn’t, have a look at other properties and think about your budget. Over the long term, it can be more profitable to invest in good quality fences from the start.