Types of Fences for the Homestead

Learn about fencing and energizer options before installing a well-built fence to add value and security to your land.

  • Your choice for fencing should be based on the livestock you want, the terrain of your land, the life span of various fencing options and the amount of effort and tools it will take to build and maintain each type.
  • Sometimes called “page wire” fencing, the woven wire system uses the same kind of wood and metal posts common to other fencing types.
  • Barbed wire fencing begins with the same post arrangement as woven wire fencing, but it’s easier to install because it does not require you to handle large rolls of woven wire.
  • In the high-tensile nonelectric fence, smooth 12.5-gauge wire (sometimes barbed wire, too) is loosely fastened to posts that offer vertical support, but still permit the wires to slide back and forth. This allows for easy retensioning of the fence wires and helps to better contain animals — when they hit the fence, a whipping action occurs that discourages future encounters.
  • For many homesteaders, high-tensile electric fencing is an ideal choice. It’s the least expensive perimeter fencing to install, with the lowest level of ongoing maintenance required over its expected 25-year life span.
  • This fence charger is solar-powered and works well for locations without an electrical power source.

You’ve got a piece of land and a dream to keep some livestock, but your place doesn’t have good fences — not yet, anyway. Many types of fences are available, and installing a fence is a job you can do yourself.

Fencing can range from about $200 to $1,500 per quarter mile (1,320 feet), but your selection criteria will involve more than just the cost. Your choice should be based on the livestock you want, the terrain of your land, the life span of various fencing options and the amount of effort and tools it will take to build and maintain each type.

Fencing options include woven, barbed and high-tensile (both electrified and nonelectric) wire. Electrified poly wire/poly tape is another possibility, but for large livestock it’s only effective for temporary applications within permanently fenced fields. Typical fences are about 5 feet high, though any height is possible — I have a 7-foot-tall electric fence to keep out deer. The approximate material costs that follow are based on information taken from a July 2005 Iowa State University Extension report about livestock fencing (go to the Iowa State University Extension website and search for “fencing costs”).

Woven Wire Fence

Installation: about $1,500/quarter mile with a single strand of barbed wire on top; alternating between wooden posts and metal T-posts spaced 12 to 16 feet apart. (In most locations, you won’t need nearly so many wooden posts — maybe two for every quarter mile.) About 40 hours of labor

Ongoing maintenance: replacing and resetting staples, retensioning corners

Pros: strong, secure and relatively attractive; confines nearly all livestock, including sheep and goats

Cons: highest initial cost, most maintenance required

6/17/2020 8:52:10 AM

We installed a poly-copper electric rope fence on our horse property here in the CT River Valley in 1999, and it has humming along like a dream ever since. It was cheap and easy to install along our hilly wooded pasture, and even cheaper to run with a solar-powered energizer. IMO The best part about this product is it’s high tensile strength. Here in New England we get a lot of damaging storms. I can not€t count how many times I have been able to bring my fence back into service quickly by simply starting up the chainsaw, removing downed trees or limbs, and letting the lines spring right back in to place. Only ongoing maintenance required is to periodically check the power level, as brush overgrowth along the fence line bogs down the charge. (I can always tell when there is a power issue though, because the swath of grass my horses can reach underneath the fence line increases by several inches.) The product we used 20 yrs ago was Electrobraid; we highly recommend this brand/type of fence to any large animal farm owners considering this option.

Devin Taylor
5/13/2009 12:44:24 PM

An alternative to wood that is common in oil patch country is used or reject pipe posts for braces. A single 2 3/8 or 2 7/8 post 8' every 100 ft with t-posts between, and a 'straight brace' - two pipe posts 4' apart with a top and mid rail made from the same pipe - every 400' or so. Corner and end braces are usually two pipe posts 8' to 10' apart, with a top and bottom rail and a diagonal pipe brace running from the top of the corner post to the bottom of the inset post. Set all corners and braces in sac-crete. Some farm stores and country weld shops even sell pre-welded braces and corners so no welder is needed. Just dig your two holes at the proper spacing then set the braces in the holes. Oil field pipe is much heavier than steel 'fence posts' carried at home improvement stores, typically running 3/16 to 5/16 wall vs 1/8th for 11 ga or 1/16th for 16 ga. And it is often cheaper too. Even heavily corroded or blown out pipe from failed pressure tests will last for decades even with no paint.

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