PHOTO: Ron Kroetz
If you keep livestock on your farm, chances are you’ve invested a lot of time, effort and money into constructing quality fences for your pastures. The sight of a newly constructed fence, perfect in every way and free from damage or defects, is always a sight to be proud of.
Unfortunately, as hobby farmers everywhere have discovered, animals aren’t very impressed by beautiful fences. In fact, to your animals, it matters little what the fence looks like, and they feel no remorse when they push, shove, chew or otherwise mess with your fences, causing damage along the way.
Of course, setting aesthetics aside, protecting your fences from livestock damage is also important for keeping your animals safe—you don’t want them to break through your fence and escape or injure themselves on a damaged fence. To help keep your fences (and livestock) safe, here are some tips for protecting your fences from livestock damage.
It might sound silly, but making sure that your animals have something to do can go a long way toward protecting your fences from damage. As an example, horses can become bored during long, snowy winters, and they will often entertain themselves by chewing on wooden fences or fence posts. A couple of horses working together can cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time, breaking fence posts in half and forcing you to make emergency (read: temporary) repairs in the middle of winter.
One simple way to keep your livestock entertained in a non-destructive manner is to provide them with an ample supply of food, such as hay. With something to munch on, your livestock will be much less tempted to go chew on your fence instead.
You’ll also want to make an effort to ensure that what is inside the pasture is more appealing than what is outside the pasture. If you’re keeping livestock in a small pasture in which they’ve eaten most of the available forage and the other side of the fence features a large field of lush grass, it’s only a matter of time before they start testing your fence to see if they can reach, climb or break through to reach the greener grass on the other side.
That’s not to say that you should plow up the area around your pastures to make them unappealing to your livestock, but making sure that your pastures aren’t overgrazed—and rotating your livestock to different fields if possible to give tired pastures a rest—can help keep your pastures in great shape and make your animals less likely to damage your fence by trying to reach the other side.
If your animals are particularly stubborn and won’t abandon their mission to damage your fences, try to make your fences less appealing. Even if you don’t have an electric fence, it might be worth the effort and investment involved to install electrified wires in “trouble spots” to convince your livestock to leave those areas alone.
If chewing wooden posts or boards is an issue, covering these areas with mesh wire can be an excellent solution. However, for large pastures, this can be time-consuming, and it’s important to make sure that any sharp pieces of the mesh wire don’t protrude where they could injure your livestock. With electric fences, it is also possible to string an extra wire across the length of your fence but several feet away from the posts, making it impossible for your livestock to reach the posts without touching the extra wire.
Perhaps more than anything else, taking care to properly maintain your fences and keep them in good shape can help prevent your livestock from damaging them. For wire fences of all kinds, this can involve routinely tightening the wires to keep them from sagging. For board fences, checking that all boards are securely attached to their posts is a good idea. If any part of your fence seems weaker than the rest and becomes possible to pass through, your livestock might give it a try and cause damage in the process; catching any problem areas early on and fixing them can reduce the chances of livestock damage.
Of course, even with the best of precautionary measures, your livestock might still cause some damage over the years (they can be persistent!), but by following these tips, you can reduce the chances of all types of damage and help keep your livestock safe.