There are a number of different options for livestock fencing depending on your needs and costs - some permanent and some movable.
A well-laid hedge is stock-proof, provides shelter and looks attractive, and although hedgelaying is a time-consuming and skilled job, once done it will last for years and is relatively low-maintenance. What’s more, it will provide a home for a host of wildlife.
The most common hedgerow shrub is hawthorn followed closely by blackthorn. Healthy hedges will only require regular trimming to keep them at the required height, and can remain in good order for up to 50 years. Eventually though, the hedges will become more like trees with gaps appearing at the lower levels of the hedge. The hedge can then be re-laid, encouraging new growth from the base.
There are many different styles of hedgelaying around the UK, all developed to cope with the different climates of that area. Have a look at the National Hedgelaying Society website for examples of the different styles.
Hedgelaying is a skilled profession and has experienced a surge in popularity after a sharp decline in the 1960’s. Competitions are held all over the country.
Permanent stock fencing is initially expensive, but will last for years with little maintenance. Constructed in straight lines, strainer posts are erected with wire (galvanised) netting strained between. Strainer posts must be used at the end of a fence and at specific distances (usually 100m) along the fence. Intermediate stakes are used in between the strainer posts, but strainer posts must be used at crucial points in the fence such as when changing direction or gradient.
The wire netting is usually supplied in rolls of 50m, 100m of longer for high tensile. The wire netting also comes in different heights and weights depending on what type of livestock you have. This type of fencing is extremely durable but is permanent, so ideal for around the edges of fields where hedgelaying is not an option.
Barbed wire can also be stapled to the outside of the posts in single or double rows above the netting for extra security. Be aware though that if the fencing adjoins a public right of way, plain wire should be used instead of barbed wire if the barbed wire may injure people or animals using the right of way. Fencing should not be strained or attached to gate posts, trees, shrubs or other structures.
Electric fencing, either wire, tape or netting, is very useful as it can be moved to wherever you need it – for example strip grazing.
Strip grazing is where a temporary electric fence divides one area of the field and is gradually moved across the field to provide fresh grazing – often used when livestock are feeding on winter brassicas. Rotation grazing is similar, where the pasture is split in to smaller paddocks, so that once one area has been grazed, you can provide a fresh paddock to move your livestock on to and allow the previous area to rest.
As well as keeping the pasture in good condition, strip grazing and rotation grazing also help to reduce the animal’s exposure to internal parasites, that build up on heavily grazed pasture.
National Hedgelaying Society - http://www.hedgelaying.org.uk
National Fencing Association - http://efa.fences.org
For further information, please see the DVD 'Managing Your Flock for Peak Health'