What is Fencing?

Fences are used in agriculture to keep animals in or out of an area. You can use a variety of materials to construct a fence. The types of materials you use will depend on the terrain of the area to be fenced in, location, and the type(s) of animals you want to confine.

Before fencing was developed, it was common for domesticated livestock to roam freely. They were fenced out of areas they were unwanted such as gardens or crop fields. Eventually, increased use of row crop agriculture and a growing population forced livestock farmers to fence in their animals.

Early fences were constructed of whatever materials were readily available, such as stone or wood. Today, a wide variety of wire and electric fencing options are available to you.


Types of Fencing


Wood is one of the most common fencing materials used. It offers a traditional look, and dependent on wood species chosen, a range of affordable options. Varieties range in price from lower-cost pine to more high-end woods such as cedar or redwood. Most wood fence materials are treated with a polyurethane stain or wood preservative to extend longevity and protect against insects and rot.

You may also choose wood as your fencing material if you own land with a suitable timber stand which is ready to be harvested. Wood fence can be found on horse farms and in pens and corrals where livestock are handled in close quarters. It is, on occasion, used in conjunction with single strand electrified wire or poly.


Pipe is a sturdy, strong, and relatively low-maintenance fencing material manufactured from steel. It may be used along with or in combination with stranded cable to construct pens, corrals, and continuous fencing systems. It may come in galvanized or un-galvanized versions and can be painted to suit your preference.

Price of pipe fencing varies with the market. Scrap pipe can offer a lower-cost option if oil fields are nearby.

Vinyl / PVC

Vinyl, also referred to PVC, fence is constructed of synthetic plastics such as vinyl, polypropylene, nylon, polythene, and a variety of recycled plastics. Synthetic fencing became available in the 1980s and was first-known as a durable horse fencing option. Today it is used for agricultural fencing and residential uses.

Vinyl fence comes preformed and is easily cleaned. It is both weather-resistant and fairly low-maintenance. A downside, vinyl fence is commonly more expensive than other comparable fencing materials and may degrade in quality in extreme hot or cold environments.


Wire fences are supported by tension, to prevent sagging, and are stretched between posts, commonly wood, at ends, corners, and at key points along long spans, usually 150 to 1000 feet. Smaller posts exist between braced posts, positioned every 10 to 20 feet, to keep wires spaced and upright.

Common wire gauges range from 9 to 17. Smaller gauge numbers on wire indicate larger diameters. Conversely, higher gauge numbers accompany thinner fence wire. Most electric fence wires are in the 14 to 17 gauge range.


Types of wire fence

Barbed Wire

Invented in the late 19th century, barbed wire is a steel fencing constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the wire strand. It is used commonly to construct inexpensive fences and was the first wire technology capable of restraining livestock.

Barbed wire is made in a variety of styles. Typical strand variations include two to five strands. Barbed wire fencing is simple to construct and quick to erect, even by novice fencers, requiring only fence posts, wire and a device, such as staples, to attach the wire to the post.

NOTE:  Precautions to protect against injury (due to the barbs) should be adopted when handling barbed wire fencing. Make sure you wear protective clothes, gloves, and boots to prevent bodily harm. In addition, barbed wire is not a recommended livestock fencing option. Barbed wire is dangerous and likely to damage animals that come into contact with it.

Woven Wire

Woven wire is identified by the wire "knots" wrapped around each intersecting wire which give its "woven" appearance. Woven wire is more costly to purchase and install than basic wire, but is safer and less expensive than wood, pipe, or other fencing materials.

Combined with one or more strands of barbed wire and/or electric wire at the top and possibly another at the bottom, woven wire is an effective means of containing pigs, sheep or goats.

(NOTE: Woven wire with large openings (a.k.a. sheep fence) can be potentially hazardous to wild animals and horses. In this case, a variation of woven wire called "field fence" with smaller, narrower openings at the bottom and wider openings at the top should be used.)


Chain-link fencing is a woven fence made from galvanized or coated steel wire. Wires run vertically and are bent to form a zigzag pattern which allows for each "zig' and 'zag' to hook with the wire immediately on one side or the other of it. This hooking together of wire forms the diamond pattern seen in chain-link fencing.

Chain-link commonly comes in 20 rod and 50 feet rolls and is available in a variety of heights, mesh gauges and lengths. Common mesh gauges are 9, 11, and 11.5.

It's low cost and easy installation, make chain-link a popular fencing choice for yard perimeter fencing, recreational purposes such as baseball fields and dirt race tracks, and for confinement of pets and small livestock such as poultry.

Smooth Wire

Smooth wire fencing is constructed of either a two-wire twist or single strand of metal, usually steel or aluminum, wire. As the name implies, the wire is smooth with no barbs present. Smooth wire used in combination with a fence charger is a common, inexpensive fencing option to contain horses and other animals prone to entanglement.

Smooth wire is less likely to injure animals which become entangled or rub up against the wire. Because of its elasticity, animals leaning on the wire or loosening from posts will quickly cause the wire to lose form. With this being the case, electrifying smooth wire is recommended to maintain fence integrity. Smooth wire can also be used to secure fence-post braces.


Developed in the 1970s, high-tensile wire is a uniquely-designed hard, springy steel wire capable of handling higher tensions than normal smooth or barbed wire made of milder steels. It allows for fence posts to be spaced wider apart, is not easily stretched by animals or other obstructions, and can be insulated and electrified.

It is more expensive than regular wire fences, but the need for fewer posts makes high-tensile fence an economical option. High-tensile wire can also be used for horticultural purposes such as trellis systems for vining plants like grapes or hops.

The wire, when strung and strained to the recommended 250 lb of tension, withstands up to 1650 lb of livestock pressure per strand and low temperature contraction without losing its elasticity. Regularly checking and maintaining recommended wire tension on high-tensile will ensure fence longevity.

High-tensile is most often 12 or 12.5 gauge galvanized steel and will state that it is for high-tensile systems. Take note that fence wire which is 12 gauge or larger is not always considered high-tensile, unless it is stated on the packaging. 


Considering Electric Fencing?

Electric fence systems are used to control a wide variety of animals.  A pulsed electrical current is sent along fence wire, at about one pulse per second, from an electric fence charger, also known as an energizer. These short electrical pulses produce short and sharp, but safe shocks which translate to a psychological barrier which trains the animal to avoid the electric fence. 

When an animal comes in contact with the electrified wire, the current passes through the animal to the ground, thus completing the electrical circuit. The continuous electrical current flowing through the wire is sufficient enough that the animal will remember the shock and stay away from the wire in the future.

The fence must be well-designed and constructed to absorb some pressure from animals, snow and wind. The fence's charger must also have enough power for the length of the fence and for the animals being controlled.

Since the Earth itself makes up half of the electric fence circuit, it is very important to have a properly installed ground circuit

The electrically charged fence wire must not be allowed to come into contact with shrubs, tall grass, and any other conductive objects on a continual basis.  Otherwise, the electric charge from the fence wire will lose its “shocking” power, causing it to short out.

Regardless of what fence wire system is utilized, ground rod(s) and their connect ion to the charger's ground terminal must always be used.

The right fence charger is the heart of your electric fence system. Finding the best-matched charger for your fence is imperative to successfully contain/exclude animals.