Planning More Fencing

I have finally started on fencing the second pasture. Really, I started a few months ago, with the planning, but that takes a lot of time, so only just this last week was I able to start putting in posts. I have a master plan of the fencing layout of the whole property, which I have drawn up in Visio. It shows the high-level workflow of gates, tractor drive areas, ditches, culverts and bridges. It looks like this:


But when I’m ready to fence a particular rectangle, I need  second drawing to help me figure out the materials list. So for that I draw a diagram on graph paper, in pencil, so I can make corrections as I go. Here is the plan for this pasture, which is about 3.5 acres.


On this drawing, I think about which way each gate will hinge, and how livestock will flow through that gate in either direction, without getting bunched up into a corner. I also think about how the tractor will pass in both directions, with an implement behind it- it’s hard to turn tight corners, so if there are two gates close together, the turning radius needs to be gradual. In some cases, I actually went out and marked the openings with temporary T-posts, and drove the tractor through them to verify that it would be comfortable.

The drainage ditches require a lot of thought too. Where the Flood Control District will be driving a very large excavator to clean out the drainage ditches, they ask for a 14′ gate opening. And of course, they need room to maneuver through the gates in both directions. But in other places, I prefer a smaller gate, as 14 footers are cumbersome to operate. I also prefer a lot of “man gates” (4′ openings) for easy access when I’m on foot.

And, there is the tiny, barely walk-able space between the ditches and the fencing: I plan to actually trap animals in there from time to time to graze down the strip. My goal is to eventually have every square inch of this place graze-able, so we’ll have very little mowing to do. On the other hand, when I’m moving animals from field to field, I’d like the gates to open in such a way as to block animals from trying to run down that strip when I don’t want them to (it’s hard to get them out of there, I’ve learned…).

Once I know where the gate openings go, that determines where I need big 6×6″ posts, to support heavy gates. I’ll also use that big of a post anywhere where there is a very long run of fencing- say, maybe longer than 200′, because they resist the tension better.

But, 6×6 posts are expensive, and very hard to handle, so I’ll only use them where I really need them. In other places, I’ll use 4×6″ posts, and then 4×4″ posts for the line posts, every 100′. In between, I use steel T-posts, every 10 feet.

For this field, I need 69 wood posts, about 160 T-posts, and over 1800 linear feet of wire. That also means 138 bags of concrete- oof! I will be putting in eight gates in this field, and it will include a driving lane. The lane is useful for driving from field to field without worrying about letting animals out. And, it can also serve as a smaller paddock for separating animals.

I keep this hand-drawing in a plastic sleeve, as I’ll be handling it a lot as I plan each day’s work. On the back of the sheet, I have a reminder list of things I need to bring down to the field with me, in the tractor, for each step in the process- setting the posts, making the H-braces, and then finally stretching the wire. It’s really a pain if I drive all the way down there, and realize I’ve forgotten the fencing pliers!

7 thoughts on “Planning More Fencing

  1. bruce king says:

    You can cement the posts or buy a longer post and bury it deeper & tamp the ground. I’ve found both techniques to be pretty similar in results. I went from 2 bags of concrete per 2′ deep post to no concrete on 4′ deep post. Since the post holes are dug by tractor, it’s not much more work to go the extra 2′, and it saves me $5/post.

    With respect to posts, if you’re buying square pressure treated consider round pressure treated. You can find ’em everywhere, and they’re about half the price.

  2. workingcollies says:

    Hey Bruce!
    I am afraid to not use concrete in the flood plain, as an old farmer neighbor advised me that he’s had fencelines float up before, where he didn’t use concrete. I am burying my posts 3+ feet deep, which is about as deep as my post hole digger goes.

    I’m skipping concrete up by the house though, figuring that it’s SO much work to pull those posts when the do rot; and I agree, just burying them deep enough should be good enough, for low-tension fencing.

    I’m curious where you’ve found treated round posts, I’ve never seen them nearby? I recently read about someone in Monroe who carries juniper posts, priced competitive to treated posts. I like the idea of them being less toxic, am curious to learn more.

  3. bruce king says:

    the coop in everett carries juniper posts, but I’m not at all convinced that they’re rot resistant. In the desert, where you find juniper, untreated boards last forever, so I’m thinking that someone noticed juniper lasted forever and thought that it was a property of the wood that did it. In our wet climate, not so much.

    You can find the round posts in 2″ increments, from 2″ to 7″ in diameter. Check dayville hay & grain east of highway 9 just a little south of snohomish for examples. they’re round lathe-turned posts that are treated with something to make them rot resistant. They don’t look like the pressure treated wood; they’re a little greenish color, but that’s what I’ve used in my fence.

    After pressing the county on fencing regulations they finally admitted that there were no regulations on specific types of fence, but that they’d asked FEMA for an opinion on 2 types of fence and FEMA said yes to 3 wire barbed wire or 3 wire electric. Neither of those fences will exclude any predator or keep animals in as securely as I’d like. So I’m just building appropriate fences and waiting to see if they’re going to cite me for that, too.

    I use concrete on some of my fences too. Particularly those in peat bog because the soil just isn’t substantial enough. a few hundred pounds of concrete does the trick.

  4. workingcollies says:

    Huh, I think I know what you’re talking about, the co-op in Snohomish also has some kind of untreated wood posts, I wasn’t sure what the material was. I’d never asked about theirs because they don’t have big enough ones for me. I’ll have to do some more reading to see where the research was done on them. Our soil is so wet here, it could be that it just doesn’t matter what you use, it’s always going to rot!!

    Interesting that the county backed down on the fence type issue for you. Even with FEMA, I can’t imagine why they’d care- 3-strand or woven wire is all going to catch crud, but if the crud is big enough, it’ll break the fence anyway. Silly.

  5. Mark Nagel says:


    Could you send me higher-res pictures of your farm fencing layout? I’m just starting the process and am looking for some examples (of what people do).


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