Which Fence Type is Best for my Livestock Species?

December 1, 2022 by
Mike Gais

The type of fence can depend widely on the species, surrounding conditions, predator threats, and sometimes the individual animal. As discussed in a previous blog, there are physical and physiological fence barriers.


Horses tend to need more of a psychological barrier. They are typically visual learners and have a tendency to test their boundaries.

It is important to have visual aids when using thin fence types (such as tapes or braids) or fence colors that may blend in with the background such as a brown fence on a wooded background. Some common visual aids include fence flags or fence tape hanging on the fence line. These will help the horse to see the fence line from a distance and allow adequate stopping time if the horse is at a gallop towards the fence line.

Electrified polytapes, ropes, and twines are common fence types for confining horses. These types can be quickly strung on posts with light tension and electrified using a fence energizer. The proper size energizer will depend on the length of fence you will be running.

Other options for horses include horse rail (non-electrified or electrified) or coated high tensile wire. These types can also be hooked up to a fence energizer, or can stand alone with enough strands. However, if the fence is not electrified, it needs to be tensioned to prevent the horse from pushing it to get to the greener grass on the other side.


Traditionally, cattle have been fenced with barbed wire but in today’s industry the most common cattle fence is high tensile wire with treated wood posts. This type of fence would be a physical and/or psychological barrier. Cattle need a strong fence or one that is mentally intimidating. If you want to create strictly a physical barrier, you will need to use at least 8 strands of high tensile with post spacing every 16’ and at least one dropper in between. If you want to create a psychological cattle fence,, you will use 4-6 strands of wire with post spacing every 20-40’ depending on the terrain, and electrify with a properly sized energizer. (At least one joule per mile).

A woven wire fence will contain cattle as a physical barrier, but is more costly than a high tensile fence. Other options for a physical barrier for cattle would include a wood panel fence or heavy wire panels. These type of fences increase the labor and require far more maintenance than high tensile fence.

Sheep and Goats

Two of the most important factors to consider with sheep and goats is their creative nature and predator threats. The most used fencing is a woven wire fence with 2”x4” wire spacing configuration. This will decrease the climbing capability of the animal and be the more effective at confining goats and sheep. This wire also decreases the risk of animal getting their head through the fence and not being able to pull it back through due to horns. The fence height should be at least 39” inches for these species. Physical barriers are usually the best for sheep and goats, but they can also be combined with a psychological barrier by using a 6” offset on the fence to set an electrified strand of high tensile wire off the woven wire. This is prevent the animal from being able to push on or go under the fence.

As mentioned, the other consideration is predators. Woven wire is effective in protecting sheep and goats from coyotes and other predators because they cannot squeeze through the wire spacing. If the threat is high, barbed wire or high tensile can be placed on the outside of the fence near the ground and along the top of the poles.


The biggest concern with swine fencing is rooting. The most recommended fencing for swine is woven wire with a strand of electrified wire near the ground. The woven wire is sufficient to keep the animal confined and the electrified wire deters the animal from rooting underneath the wire. Pigs can also be contained with one or two strands of electrified wire, tape, or twine that is properly energized. Pigs are sensitive and will quickly become aware of the slightest shock. Pigs are often contained using electric fence when grazing or around sow lots.

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