Livestock panels, sometimes known as cattle panels or hog panels, have many uses in the garden. They are 16 feet long and 36 inches (hog) to 52 inches high. The spacing between the heavy wires in the ones I have is 6-inches-by-8-inches. Some panels have closer spacing near the bottom. I first learned about them as animal fencing, probably from reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Then, in the summer of 1980, I attended the 3-day Homesteading class at the Ecovillage that MOTHER EARTH NEWS had at that time near Asheville, NC. It was there that I first saw the panels in action. Four years would pass before we bought our 5-acre farm. When we did, I went looking for some panels of my own to make a pen for the goats I was buying. To my dismay, I couldn’t find any locally. Times have changed, though, and they can be found at most farm supply stores. Watch for them to go on sale. Over the years I’ve learned many more uses for them besides penning livestock.
In the picture you can see my garden gate and grape arbor, both made from the panels. To bend a panel into the arbor shape, lay it on the ground and have someone hold one end or anchor it in some way. Pick up the other end and walk toward the first end. It’s that easy. We needed more height in the arbor than the 16-foot panel would provide, so we put it on top of two rows of bricks on each side. Rebar is inserted into the ground through holes in the bricks. The panel is wired to the part of the rebar sticking up from the ground. You can see how this arbor looks when the grapes are in full production at Homeplace Earth.
The panels can be cut with bolt cutters or a hacksaw. I cut one to make my gate. I have wired 1/2-inch hardware cloth to the lower half of the gate to keep rabbits out. An earlier attempt at rabbit control was to weave bamboo through the spaces. If I have enough bamboo strips there, it works. However, I needed to keep after it. When I came across the hardware cloth, I went with it. There is no hinge or latch here. The gate fits between the arbor and fencepost on the hinge side. On the latch side it just leans against the regular fence. We have plans for putting new posts in that garden entrance and this gate, put up several years ago, was only meant to be temporary.
I use these fence panels to trellis tomatoes and other vegetables in the garden. They’re also good for building structures. As for their intended use to fence livestock—they’re great. As with any fencing, you have to carefully consider the animals you want to keep in or out and the terrain you are working with. These panels are not going to conform to the hills and valleys of rolling land like field fencing. They are straight for 16 feet. Gene Logsdon sings their praises in his book All Flesh is Grass. He suggests they would be good as a perimeter fence on a farm. Easy enough on relatively flat land, but not so easy if you live in the hills. We’ve used them to fence a pasture until we installed permanent field fencing. Since then, those fence panels have been moved around all over the farm for different uses. I know someone who was going to fence her garden with them to keep out her large dogs. If she wanted to also keep out rabbits, she would have to add something else with smaller holes.
Additional information and ideas about using livestock panels can be found at Homeplace Earth. I hope you find them as useful as we have.