When it comes to managing fields and paddocks, reliable and secure fencing is of utmost priority. Field and paddock fencing plays a vital role in protecting your crops and livestock, as well as maintaining the smooth running of your farm or rural property's upkeep. From large fields to small paddocks, herds of sheep to patches of crops, there is a huge range of needs and requirements when it comes to agricultural and rural land use, so it's important that you understand the best designs and practices to use in each occasion.
Before we get into the different types of field and paddock fencing, it's important to understand the distinctions between the two, as well as understand how to protect your field and paddock fencing to ensure its longevity.
Field and paddock fences are both types of agricultural fencing that can help to maintain large areas of rural land. The terms field and paddock are often used interchangeably, both when talking about areas of farmland as well as fencing types. However, there are some general distinctions that can be drawn:
Field fencing is used to define boundaries for large rural areas or fields, whether this is farmland or residential. Of course, fields can be unfenced but erecting fences around your fields is an ideal way to prevent intrusion from humans and wildlife. Field fencing can be used to contain crop fields, as well as manage large areas of grassland and other private land.
Paddock fencing, on the other hand, is specifically designed for controlling livestock within designated fields or areas. As a result, paddock fencing requires some additional properties to ensure that livestock is effectively contained.
Unlike standard fencing, farm, field and livestock fencing typically cover large areas, so longevity is key if you want to keep costs low. If you install an unprotected run of fencing and have a post fail, chances are there will be more to follow.
The cost of replacing these could be substantial, and even if you decide to do the work yourself, you need to consider time and machinery costs. Paddock fencing failure can be particularly worrisome due to the risk of livestock escaping, especially if your land is close to a road.
When using wooden post and rail fencing in particular, it's important to consider protecting the posts from rot and insect damage. Pressure-treated wooden rails and posts are a reliable choice as this treatment process involves anti-rot preservatives being forced into the wood's cellular structure, providing excellent durability. Additionally, using post rot protector sleeves, such as Postsaver Post Rot Protection, can further safeguard your fence posts from ground-line rot and decay.
It's important that you effectively install any fence, especially when it comes to field and paddock fencing, as breakage or failure could result in your livestock escaping and putting themselves at risk, as well as wildlife intruding on your fields.
The first step to installing paddock and field fencing is to determine the layout and boundaries of your field or paddock. If you're unsure about where your boundaries lie, you can hire a land surveyor to determine this (usually costs between £200 – £1000 per day). You can apply to register this 'determined boundary' on the gov.uk website for £90.
To estimate the length of field fencing required to enclose your land's perimeter: first, find the square root of the land area to determine the length of one side; then, multiply this length by four to calculate the total length needed for the entire enclosure.
For instance, if your land is one acre (43,560 square feet), you will need approximately 836 feet of fencing (209 ft x 4 sides) to enclose it. If your field is an irregular shape, you can use a long-distance measuring tool such as a measuring wheel.
You can then input these lengths alongside your desired post spacing (typically between 6 to 8 ft) into an online fence calculator to get an estimate of your fencing materials.
When dealing with large areas of land, it's a good idea to consult with your local utility and gas companies to determine where their underground lines are, so that you don't accidentally stick a post in one.
Next, you need to secure your fence posts into the ground (with one-third anchored into the soil).
For round posts, we'd recommend hiring a purpose-built post-knocker machine or alternatively, you could use a fence post rammer for pointed wooden stakes if you wanted to save on cost.
For square posts and post & rail fencing, you'll need to dig the holes to place the posts in first with a post hole auger or post hole digger and then backfill.
It also might be worth finding a local fencing contractor who could bring purpose-built fencing machinery to make the job effortless for you.
Different fencing types and designs will require different installation processes from here so it's a good idea to consult with your supplier or a local fencing contractor to ensure the longevity of your fence. Most field and paddock fences will require some kind of fence brace, however, which provides crucial support and prevent sagging or collapsing of the fence line (often at the corners). These usually come in the form of either H-braces or N-braces.
There are several types of field and paddock fencing that are best suited towards containing livestock and managing large swaths of rural land.
Post and rail fencing is constructed by placing wooden posts at regular intervals and attaching horizontal rails to create a barrier. Posts should be spaced between 6 to 10 feet apart with at least one-third of their length securely anchored into the ground.
Post and rail fencing is ideal for both fields and paddocks, as it provides a sturdy barrier whilst maintaining a subtle and naturalistic appearance.
Electric fencing utilises electrical pulses to create a psychological deterrent for livestock, by transmitting an electrical shock upon contact. This conditions the animal to avoid the fence in the future to prevent experiencing the shock again.
It's unlikely that you'd need electric fencing for a field that didn't contain livestock, but it's a strong option if you're worried about cattle, horses or sheep breaking through post and rail fencing. Make sure you regularly test the voltage using a voltmeter (between 2,000 and 9,000 volts is a normal range), and follow safety precautions such as erecting proper signage.
High tensile wire fencing, named for its strength under tension, is a robust type of farm fencing. Typically crafted from galvanised steel with a carbon content of at least 0.28%, this construction enables the wire to be thinner and lighter without compromising durability.
The higher carbon content of high-tensile fencing makes it less pliable compared to low-carbon alternatives, but if you're seeking a long-lasting option with a reduced likelihood of breakage, high-tensile wire fencing is a strong option.
The installation of high-tensile wire fencing necessitates a tensioning system capable of pulling the wire tightly, such as a ratchet tensioner or wire strainer. If the wires are fixed close together, high tensile wire fencing can help to protect your crop fields from wildlife, and it provides great security if you're managing a paddock of larger animals.
Also referred to as woven wire, field fencing, or livestock fencing, stock fencing is commonly composed of wire woven into a grid mesh pattern, creating a robust and enduring barrier that effectively contains livestock.
The size of the mesh can vary, depending on the type of livestock being confined. Smaller mesh sizes are suitable for securing small animals like sheep, goats, and small deer, while larger mesh sizes are more appropriate for larger livestock such as cattle or horses.
Stock fencing is a versatile and economical option for containing livestock of varying sizes. It can also provide strong protection from wildlife if you're managing a crop field.
When it comes to paddock fencing, it's important that your fence can withstand the weight of livestock pushing against it, as well as being able to withstand pressure from the elements (if you want to learn more about windproof fencing, we've got you covered).
With any type of livestock, it's crucial that your paddock fencing is free from protruding materials and hardware such as nails and large splinters, as this may cause injury to your animals if they're close to the fence. It's also a good idea to regularly inspect your fence for vulnerabilities and breakages, as if left these can worsen to the point of fence failure.
When it comes to installing paddock fencing for horses, there are a few things to consider. Horses are tall animals, so the fence needs to accommodate them by sitting at a height that prevents them from attempting to jump over it. This should be at least 4.5 to 5 feet for most horses, but taller breeds or athletic horses may require even higher.
The best types of paddock fencing for horses are diamond-mesh stock fencing, post and rail and electric fencing. With any of these options, make sure that your paddock fencing is easily visible to your horses.
Whilst smaller than horses, donkeys are known for their strength and require robust fencing to avoid them pushing it over.
As with horses, your paddock fencing should be easily visible. If you're using wire fencing, it's recommended that you opt for diamond mesh as opposed to square mesh or non-meshed wire, as the gaps tend to be smaller which makes it more visible to horses and donkeys, which helps prevent them getting themselves stuck in the wire. Fences should be at least 4 feet high.
The optimal choice of farm fencing for cattle varies based on factors including cattle breed, age, and behaviour.
In general, high-tensile wire-mesh fencing is recommended for cattle due to its tight mesh design which prevents cattle from becoming trapped and its ability to withstand the pressure from large animals leaning or pushing against it. Electric fencing is another strong option as cattle respond well to this psychological conditioning. Generally, a 4 to 5 foot fence should suffice for cattle.
Pigs have a tendency to dig and root in the ground, so it's important that your paddock fence is installed fairly deep into the soil.
They're not great at jumping or climbing, so height isn't so much of an issue here (2-3 feet should be fine) but paddock fencing for pigs needs to be tightly meshed and free of any large gaps that your pigs may be able to get their heads through.
Paddock fencing for sheep and goats needs to account for their smaller statures.
Woven wire and high tensile fencing are good options, however, the space between wires or the size of the mesh needs to be smaller than their heads so they can't get trapped in the gaps. Goats in particular are notorious for jumping, climbing, and plotting their great escape, so your paddock fencing must be tall enough to avoid them breaking loose (between 3.5 to 4 feet).
Similarly to goats, llamas and alpacas have a curious disposition that can mean they're prone to testing fences, so it's particularly important that your paddock fencing is robust and secure. It should also stand at least 4 to 5 feet high to avoid them jumping over. Electric fencing can also be used as an additional deterrent for llamas and alpacas.
The specific properties and functions of field fencing are a little different than those designed for paddocks. Rather than thinking about the animals you're trying to contain, it's more important to think about what you're trying to keep out. This will depend largely on the area that surrounds your field and who your most common trespassers are likely to be, be that humans, deer or other animals.
The main thing to consider when looking at fencing your crop fields is what type of wildlife you're trying to protect your crops from. For example, woven wire or deer fencing are effective at protecting your crops from large animals like deer.
You can also use electric fencing or ultrasonic electronic repellents (that emit high-frequency sound waves) to deter wildlife from entering your fields. When using deterrents like these, it's important that they're safe and don't pose any danger of injury or death to wildlife, particularly if you have endangering species in your area. If you do opt for electric fencing, ensure it comes from a reputable supplier that has the certification to prove the safety of the energiser (which is responsible for transmitting the electrical current).
If you want to opt for natural repellents, try incorporating companion plants which naturally repel pests and wildlife, or odour repellents such as predator urine.
If you own a large area of land that you're not using for livestock or crops, then security may not be as much a concern. However, fencing provides clear boundaries for your land that can signal to walkers and hikers where your property begins, and deter trespassers. There are lots of traditional garden fencing designs that you could use, however, if your land is particularly large then you may want to opt for traditional field fencing such as post and rail.
If you own dogs or other pets that you allow to roam and play on your fields, then it's also important that your field fencing prevents them from escaping. For small or well-trained dogs, a 3 to 4 foot fence should suffice, whereas larger, untrained dogs may require up to 6 feet.
The height of your field fence depends on what you're containing within the field. Generally, fields that don't contain livestock stand around 4 to 5 feet. However, if you own dogs or other free-range animals, you may need to erect a taller, more protective fence to keep them in. Similarly, if you have a local deer population that you're trying to keep out of your crop fields, your field fencing may need to be between 8 to 10 feet.
Since fields and paddocks can be quite large, it may be tempting to space your fence posts farther apart than usual. However, this can threaten the structural integrity of your fence, particularly if you have uneven ground. The flatter your ground, the larger post spacing you can get away with, but the following measurements reflect recommended post spacing for fields and paddocks:
Post and Rail Fencing: Between 6 to 10 feet apart.
Stock Fencing: Between 8 to 12 feet apart.
High-Tensile Wire Fencing: Between 8 to 10 feet apart.
Electric Fencing: Between 10 to 16 feet apart. With electric fencing, the spacing of T-posts depends on the type of wire or tape being used and the desired level of containment, so you may need to consult the manufacturer's guidelines for your specific electric fencing system.
The size of your paddock depends on what type of livestock you're containing. Some farmers recommend that you should allow 1 acre per horse or cow, to give them ample opportunity to graze, whilst donkeys require around half an acre (2 donkeys per acre). For sheep and goats, you can usually fit around 6 to 10 sheep or pigs per acre of land, and 4 to 6 Llamas or Alpacas.
If you don't rotate paddocks, you may need more space as your livestock will need fresh grass to graze.
So there you have it - everything you need to know when it comes to field and paddock fencing. There's a lot to take in when it comes to this type of fencing, and your requirements will vary depending on the type of land you're dealing with as well as the agricultural practices you're carrying out. In any case, it's important that you use the right type of field and paddock fencing to effectively protect your livestock or crops.