"How To" Build a Better Fence

Robert Boos
Whispering Winds Ranch Ltd.
Manning AB.

Reprinted from Smoke Signals, May, 1999, pages 88-89

Summary

We have been custom fencing for 10 years and specialize in bison and elk fencing. I have found that the following points are very beneficial items to consider before you pound that first and all important fence post. These points should be considered by the beginner and by existing producers who will be expanding their pasture area.

FENCE & FACILITIES:

A) Materials to be used:
What are your preferences, wood or steel poles, smooth wire or game fence, electric fence (120 volt or solar).

B) Construction style:
What are your requirements? Consider the life expectancy of the fence then determine the quality of product and workmanship skills. Using the budget you have, make sure you purchase the best quality product that you can afford. " A fence is a fence" attitude will result in a mediocre fence at best.

C) Paddock purpose:
Do you need to include holding pens in your plans. Are raceways an option or a feature you require? What about cross fencing, will you be rotational grazing in the area you are fencing off, if so, what materials will you need to cross fence - what is your best choice for the perimeter fence?

D) FencelinePreparation:
Do trees have to be removed? Are there steep difficult to work on hills? Where will you require gates? Property lines, are you sure you know where the lines are? Is the area where you need corners open and clear of all obstructions.

E) Product costs:
Find out and compare the prices for smooth wire, game fence and electric. What are installation costs -consider this even if you intend to do the work yourself, there are costs for the equipment required and your time is certainly worth something!

FENCING BISON

1.) Purpose:
The reason you are building this fence is to keep your animals in and others out. Good range management improves breeding performance. Larger pasture areas significantly improve parasite control. More grass simply means more dollars. Spreads manure around which is natures fertilizer.

2) Quality:
Is as important as the range management behind it! ! The fence is a physical barrier as well as a psychological barrier. Content bison don't challenge fences.

3) Investment:
Your fence is a long term asset. Consider the number of head per acre and your grazing management practices, then decide the area you require.

BEFORE YOU START

I highly recommend that you do the following 10 things before you start building your fence.

  1. Aerial photo - gives you a view of the land, creeks, roads, gullies etc.
  2. Draw in - on your photo draw in your fence lines, gates and facilities.
  3. Stake it out - see what it looks like on the ground, your fence line should flow like water and be nice and smooth.
  4. Prepare - fence lines, pastures (do you need to seed an area down?) gather your supplies.
  5. Call BEFORE you dig - where are the gas, phone and hydro lines?
  6. Install - all your corner and gate poles first. Gate and comer poles should be twice the length of the height of your fence. Use large diameter poles in these areas.
  7. Straight line - run a tensioned single wire as a guide.
  8. Posts and braces - make sure you are using the proper height, spread and contour for the land you are working with.
  9. Installation & tension - make sure you make the proper tie offs, have the correct tension (not too tight, not too loose) and that the wire is stapled or wrapped securely to the post.
  10. Electric hook-up - it needs to be properly grounded with neat clean connections. Locate your fencer in a convenient location so you can regularly check and maintain it.

MATERIAL COSTS

Wood takes the most hand on labour to build, but is solid. Wire and tarps is very cost efficient and less labour intensive but is not adequate in small areas, damages occur. Steel panels are the most expensive but offers portability, design flexibility and durability, making them your best long term investment. Remember to start small and think big. A combination of the above materials is most common.

The following are costs calculated in late November 98 and are merely supplied as a general guide.

FACILITIES:

  • Wood: 2"x6"xI6' rough planks @ $450.00 per 1000 bd. feet 10' 5" to 6" poles @ $12.00 each 8 pole centers with 7' up -3 down @ $1.25 per ft.
  • 7' high wall planked 2" gaps 6" off .ground $4.53 per ft.
  • nails/washers @ $0.35 per ft.
  • Total Cost = $6.13 per foot

MATERIAL COST ON QUALITY PRODUCTS

  • Bison Tight Netting: $335.00 per 660' roll = $0.51 per ft.
  • Staples (2" barbed) $60.00 = $0.025 per staple
  • Posts/poles: 10' (5" to 6") @ $12.00 each 8' t4" to 5") @ $7.00
  • Supply Costs on a 10 line bison tight with 30' centers and 4 braces per 2640' using
  • 00 poles
  • Total Cost = $2117.40 or $0.80 per foot.
  • Custom labour, complete job @ $1845.00 which then brings your total cost to $1.61 per foot.

MATERIAL COST ON HIGH TENSILE

  • High tensile spool @ $68.00 = $0.0017 per line per ft.
  • Staples (2" barbed) @ $60.00 = $0.025 per staple
  • Posts/poles 10' (5" to 6") @ $10.00 each 8' (4" to 5") @ $7.00 each 
  • Electric Supplies:
    • Claw insulators @ $0.50 ea.
    • End Strain Insulator @ $1.00 ea.
    • Line clamps @ $1.05 ea.
    • Permanent ratchet strain @ $3.75 ea.
    • Crimp sleeves @ $0.25 ea.
    • Ground kit @ $100.00 ea.
    • 120 volt energizer @ $600.00
    • Chain grab @ $100.00 ea.
    • D.V.M. tester @ $120.00 ea.
    • Cut-out switches @ $14.00 ea.
    • Underground cable @ $1.40 per meter
    • Outriggers (steel) @ $3.00 ea.
    • Fibreglass stand-offs @ $1.70 ea.
    • Supply Cost on a 9 1ine high tensile with 2 hot wires and 30 ft. centers using 4 braces per 2640 feet, 100 poles with switches = $1,253.00 or $0.48 per foot
  • Custom labour -complete job with 2 year warranty at $1,845.00 brings your total cost to $1.25 per foot.

There are many options available out there! Individual needs, location and available product are things you need to consider when deciding on how and what to use for your fencing products.

If I can be of assistance to you in your planning please give me a call anytime at 780-836-2689.

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