You may not expect the Ocean State, with its dense settlements and small size, to be a wealth of knowledge, but the recent Rhode Island Women in Agriculture conference, presented a number of topics of interest to those farming there.

One of the first breakout sessions was on agricultural fencing options.

There are five important questions you need to ask yourself when putting up a fence:

  • What is the purpose of the fence? If it’s for livestock, what animals are being fenced in? If it’s for crops, are they annuals or perennials? Do you need to keep out deer, smaller critters or both?
  • Will you fence ever need to be moved or taken down? (This is especially important for rotational grazing operations.)
  • Will you need the fence year-round or will you not be using it in winter?
  • Are there any NRCS or organic considerations that you need to be aware of?
  • Do you plan to install the fence yourself? And if so, do you have the necessary tools?

It’s important for you to sketch a map of where the fence is going to be. That way you can take into account any woodlands, barn locations or any other land used for other purposes. Some other considerations when drawing your map include noting any slight or major changes in the direction of the fence line.

Also notate on your map the locations of houses, barns, utility grounds, buried water lines, septic systems, roads, streams, stone walls, ledges, steep terrain and wetlands.

While it seems to be common sense, also indicate direction on your map. It may be second nature to draw it from a place you often stand, but mark which direction is north at the very least.

You’ll also want to notate any available trees that could be used for fence posts. Be sure to mark the location and length of gates as well. It’s always a good idea to put gates in corners to eliminate a brace assembly and to ease the flow of livestock from pastures.

Do you want the gate to be electrified? Plan the location and source of electricity if possible.

After you’ve sketched your map, you then need to decide whether you want your fence to be electric or not. If you choose to go with an electric fence, keep in mind that if you opt for a solar charger, there are only about four hours of good sunlight in winter compared to about 13 hours in summer.

There are also a number of ways to keep predators out.

You can also set bait on the fence. When deer or other wildlife touch an electric fence to take the bait, they will receive a shock and will usually avoid the fence after that (at least for a while).

There are many different types of fencing materials to choose from as well. What you use depends on your purpose for the fence. Talk with other farmers who have similar operations to see what has been working for them.

by Susan Llewellyn