Beginning Farmer: Four Types of Fencing

When our cattle get out frequently, people start offering advice on how to improve it.  There are four typical ways of keeping cattle contained.  If you've ever wondered why they are done differently, read on!

Wood Fencing

This is what you typically see for horses.  Most horses are easily injured on barbed wire, they can be hurt by electric and die if they are tangled in it (with training this can be avoided but it's still a fear of many horse owners).  Wood pastures are considered the highest tier fencing.  They are the most expensive but also the most secure - if built right.  If a farm lived close to a road, you might see wood fencing on the section closest to the cars.  For cattle, wood doesn't often make sense due to the price point of having to fence that much pasture ground per head of cattle. 

Cattle Panel

There are many different types of cattle panels.  If you ask four farmers what cattle paneling is, they will all probably have a different response.  Most often cattle panels are sturdier wire (almost like chicken wire but in a square format) that are placed between wood posts.  They are hammered down with U shaped staples. 

Sometimes cattle paneling can be the term used for metal panels that are put together with drop pins.  They are in more of a fence look, with foot that looks like a D facing downwards.  Some cows (and my sister's horses) can figure out how to pull the pins out so they have to be wired together. A metal fence is another way a cattle panel can look.  These are metal vertical poles with metal horizontal poles going through them.  This is more often called a metal fence, but some farmers will call it cattle panels.  

Wire cattle paneling is often less expensive than wood paneling, but will require upkeep to ensure the cows don't put too much pressure on the fence.  Metal cattle paneling can be damaged by a strong enough bull, and metal fencing can be expensive and once in, will never be moved. 

Types of Cattle Fencing


There are mainly two different types of electric fence.  Wire and woven wire (that looks like cloth).  Electric is a popular way of keeping cattle contained as it can be easily moved and powered with the sun, so the pricing is pretty manageable.  For those that practice regenerative agriculture, electric is an easy way of moving fence lines, keeping them contained in smaller sections, ensuring they will eat all the grass before moving them.  Drawbacks to electric are when the power goes out, the only thing keeping cattle contained is a wire, it can hurt calves if they get caught it in, and if the farm has any sort of agri-tourism, when people come visit the farm it can cause serious injury depending on the electric power of the fence.  David and I have not really pursued electric fencing since we want to eventually have visitors to the farm, and with both of us having full time jobs, we aren't home to know if they power goes down and the cattle gets out. 

Barbed Wire

Barbed wire is a pretty popular option for cattle ranchers.  It is pretty cost effective, it keeps cattle contained well, and it is easy to put up but also take down in the future if needed.  Cattle have really thick hides and barbed wire doesn't even scratch them.  In fact, when dealing with barbed wire we wear leather gloves so it doesn't cut us.  With wooden posts and metal T-posts, it is the cheapest option.  The main drawback to barbed wire is only cattle can use the pasture, untrained horses will be hurt, it's too weak to keep pigs contained, and any other animal can be hurt with it.  Also with cattle resting against it, leaning their head through, or otherwise stretching it out, it needs to be frequently checked and repaired.  


So even though there are so many different fencing options to choose from, we decided based on what is best for our farm.  For the pastures closer to the farm where vistors will be, for the horse pasture where they need the highest quality, and for the cattle winter lot that we need to the most secure, will all be wood fencing.  This also looks the nicest for visitors. For our summer lots where we are practicing regenerative agriculture, moving cattle frequently, but not home always to double check electricity, we are doing barbed wire.  So hopefully this helps if you are wondering why there are so many different fence styles on the farms you see!