Livestock Fencing Bloopers & Lessons Learned – Deborah Niemann








Great Big Ideas & Takeaways:

There is nothing on the homestead that is less forgiving than fencing. If you make a mistake when it comes to fencing, you will pay the price when your livestock escape. But how do you know what type of fencing you need if you’ve never owned livestock before?

Join Deborah as she tells you about some of the mistakes her family made when they first moved to the country to start homesteading. Discover…

  • How to choose fencing that suits your species of livestock.
  • The 2 types of fences you should ALWAYS avoid.
  • Getting by with temporary fencing.
  • Which gates to buy—and which to avoid!
  • How to make your own dependable gate (for CHEAP)!
  • Revamping existing fencing to make it work.
  • Which animals are the most difficult to fence.
  • The truth about “Grass Is Greener” syndrome.
  • Physical barriers vs. pain barriers—what to know.
  • Why you may need to DOUBLE fence.
  • Fencing to keep rabbits out of your garden.

About The Speaker:

Deborah and her family left the Chicago suburbs in 2002 to move to a creek in the middle of nowhere to build their own home and start growing their own food organically.

Today they produce 100% of their meat, dairy, eggs, maple syrup, honey, and lots of their herbs, fruits, and vegetables. They raise goats, sheep, pigs, and a variety of poultry to meet their needs.

Deborah speaks about raising goats and sustainable living at conferences from California to North Carolina and in Canada. She has written three books: Homegrown and Handmade, EcoThrifty, and Raising Goats Naturally.



QUESTION: Do you have any problems keeping your livestock contained? Or predators out? Tell us about your biggest fencing issues below.



  1. Marjory WIldcraft

    I love that phrase “you should treat all fencing as a suggestion”…
    Gosh I think fencing problems just come with the territory in general. We brought this presentation because the reality of how strong, or what it takes, often surprises people.

    1. Toadily!

      So true! I have seen cattle walk through EVERY kind of fence. Fences are just to bluff them. Once a critter calls the bluff, they are almost impossible to keep in.

      1. Countrygirl2of6

        I had a crazy cow that climbed over the hood of a big Suburban SUV, ran through fences, and tried to run me over. The only way we could contain her was within a smallish pipe corral, and I suspect the only reason that worked was because she didn’t know she could just have jumped it. Needless to say she didn’t live long after she began her rampage. With large animals it really is a matter of their temperment and, for the most part, their willingness to work with us, not against us.

  2. Brandon Gross

    All of your post are how far apart? They look like they are spaced greater than 8ft.

    1. Deborah

      Usually they’re ten feet, but depending on which picture you saw, it’s possible that a post was missing. We used to use posts that we made from fallen trees on our farm, and that was not a good idea because they’d rot in five years or less.

  3. Marrion

    Woven wire fencing needs wire stays to keep it from sagging or being pulled down. You run a top wire above the woven wire fencing and then twist the wire stays down from the top wire through the woven wire fencing. The stays keep the woven wire from sagging by connecting it to the top wire, and the additional stiffness provided by the wire stays keep the animals from being able to push the fencing down from the top. Mind you, I don’t think this will help with keeping pigs in!

    1. Deborah

      That’s a great suggestion! I’ve never seen that done with woven wire. I remember seeing it with barbed wire when I was growing up in Texas.

    2. Countrygirl2of6

      We’ve done this for years. It works well but you still need to monitor the fence on a regular basis. Deer crossing over a fence, even with stays, will mush it down, as well as horses reaching over it for that “nicer” grass on the other side. Hot wire running across the top is a much more longterm solution, or best yet, combine them: stays through a top wire with hot wire just inside or above the top wire.

  4. Kathy Mayeda

    I need to fence my Aussie pup out of an area that I want to vegetable garden! I was going to use T-posts and 2×4 welded wire, now I’m wondering. However, he’s not confined in it, it’s to keep him out. I used no-climb woven wire with wood post and rails for my horses, and that seems to be working really well. Chickens will be inside garden, so now I’m wondering about the height. Was going to keep them cooped and/or tractored though.

    1. Deborah

      Dogs are not usually hard on fencing, so I wouldn’t worry about him destroying the welded wire. It should keep him out of your garden, assuming it’s tall enough that they can’t jump over it.

    2. Heather

      I’m a dog groomer and trainer and have been for years. Also owned and trained dozens of our own dogs. Aussie’s are SUPER smart, and it would be no problem at all to teach even a young puppy to stay out of your garden with no fencing at all. If you are out there, and he steps over the ‘line’ you want him not to cross, you just say, “out!” And move him back across the line. Doing that consistently any time you are out working in the garden you will have him trained in nothing flat! Additionally, he will know what the word ‘out’ means, and if you use it, and point, he will leave nearly any area you want him to move from for the rest of his life! Try it! You’ll be impressed how smart he is!

      1. Marjory WIldcraft

        Good tip Heather.

      2. Michelle

        I agree I have two Aussies and they are bright, athletic and very trainable. They need daily exercise, but will love the one that feed and exercises them and are loyal and protective.

  5. Jean

    I have found double fencing, that is a combination of wire mesh to discourage predators and create a physical barrier and electric to protect the mesh from the animals I’m trying to confine seems prudent in most cases. Nubian goats needed two strands of electric, one about knee high to them and another at nose height. I wish I had had electric across the top of the fence on the property line before the cows and horses next door pushed over the fence reaching for the grass on my side. Once the posts are pushed out of vertical they don’t stay in place well. The problem with electric is keeping the vegetation off it without using herbicides. Does anyone have an affordable in time and dollars way of doing that?

    1. Deborah

      We just mow. It takes time, but it’s the only non-toxic solution we have.

  6. Linda Walton

    The cattle(combination) panels also don’t work for a doe with horns!! We had a doe that we couldn’t help until we got the bolt cutters and made a larger opening for her head and horns.!!

    1. Deborah

      Great point! If you have goats with horns, you really should go with goat panels or goat fencing, which has holes too small for them to stick their head through.

  7. Chris

    I have chickens and the welded wire works great. I did have a chicken that decided to check out the greener grass so we had to clip its wings after the second day of it getting out.

    I am going to be expanding their area and since I am in town I was thinking about using chain link so the dog can run around in there too(he never bothers the chickens). My neighbors have their back yard fenced in so I would be using their fence as my barrier too. With all of that in mind is there another acceptable option I could use on my 1/2 an acre of land just outside the city?

  8. Lydia

    This was a systematic and clear explanation of fencing. I learned a lot and had to laugh several times. We now have cows and calves on our property that is leased to the cattle owners, so although they are supposed to take care of the fencing, they live far away and we end up chasing the calves back through the 3 wire electric fence almost every eve. They somehow learned how to jump through it when the electricity was shorted out. I’ve seen the hair stand up on their backs when they go through. But whatever shock they are getting is not enough to keep them from longing for the variety of wild weeds on the other side, even though they have plenty of grass and clover in the pasture. That “grass is greener syndrome” is sure true. Generally the electric works well for caws, even bulls. A few years ago a bull crushed down a tube gate to get to the cows, but was controlled by the electric fence. Our neighbor’s horses have been well trained on 1 wide white electric tape so they will not go near it even when it has no electricity. It’s all in the training for electric fences. I know..I’ve been trained! haha. Thanks for an excellent talk.

  9. Andrew

    Here in New South Wales Australia we have the following predators to keep out:
    (1) Monitors (big lizards that eat chickens) and snakes to keep out of vege patch and to keep from killing chickens. We even fence above to keep hawks and eagles from killing chickens in home pen.
    (2) Wild dogs and deer to keep out of paddocks. Mostly other things like wombats and kangaroos aren’t much of a problem at all. Deer can jump and so only 6 foot plus also electrified. Wild dogs also difficult

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Wow, big lizards that eat chickens? Ok, I thought Texas was a tough place to live…

  10. Tina GAllagher

    So, the upshot of your presentation is, “Do your research before buying an animal that requires fencing .”

  11. chynsia

    This was helpful in that I am looking into getting livestock.

    1. Marjory WIldcraft

      Hi Chynsia, I’m glad you got to see this before you got livestock. It really is quite amazing what they can go through.

  12. Valerie

    Any helpful suggestions on keeping stray cats out of the garden would be so appreciated.

  13. Donna

    pardon me for laughing, but this presentation reminded me so much of my wonderful memories of raising farm animals – I was a city gal turned country bumpkin up here in Alberta – and it was truly a wonderful learning experience for me – one of my most favourite memories is of raising dwarf goats and yes, if there is a will, there certainly is a way to get out of even the most well built barriers and fortresses – they always seemed to find the smallest of holes to make into their unique escape route – especially the morning I went out to see them doing their little tap-dance routine on the hood of my car, animals are very smart and very resourceful, we did end up with just raising cows eventually and a number of different varieties of poultry, but the learning experience I gained from raising goats, sheep, pigs and all the rest is memorable and I loved it all. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge

  14. Servants of the Harvest

    Thank you! This presentation was helpful with practical advice. I can relate to thrifty mindset. I am looking forward to visiting your website.

  15. Aubrey

    Interesting story about the turkeys. I can totally believe your story about having to tell people your turkeys walked off! You said that the broad breasted turkeys don’t fly, but from my experience they fly, at least enough to get over our fencing we had for them this summer. They only wandered off one time, but they would get out every night and roost on our deck railing, until I carried them back to their turkey house. How high of fencing do you use with your broad breasted? Ours was only about up to my elbow.

    1. Deborah

      The fencing for our broad-breasted turkeys was about chest high, so about 4 feet. We have had some that could jump up and sit on top of the gate, then jump down on the other side.

  16. Art Mine Creek Farm

    For weed control under/around electric fence, use vinegar on a hot day when plants are thirsty.

  17. Sandy

    You raise heritage turkeys in poultry tractors. How many in what size tractor?

    1. Deborah

      It’s only about six in a 9′ X 10′ pen, so it’s not something that would be easy to do with a lot of them.

  18. Hans Quistorff

    We woke up in the middle of the night to squeak-squeak squeak-squeak………. We had a woven wire fence separating the field from the orchard with a high tension wire along the top to keep the horses from leaning over it and smashing it down. Our Morgan/Perchon mare decided we had erred in not putting her in the orchard to eat the grass down so she would jump the fence and correct the error. She kicked her heals back a little to soon and caught the top wire between the hoof and the shoe. Being very fence wise she was patiently pulling and pushing on the fence trying to work the wire loose which made it squeak at the staples. Yes always keep the wire cutters handy when you have fenced animals.
    As shown the goats would stand on the fence to mash it down but the sheep like the pigs would get their nose under it and stretch it upward. Our night time corral had posts every 4 feet with one 4 foot woven wire above the other with the seem wrapped with wire. Along the road we wove a picket between every other vertical to limit where they could stick there heads through them dumped mowed grass from the truck along the fence to feed them.

  19. Paul Miller

    Our experience with fencing may be unique because we have a gelded donkey for 20 years. He has gotten out about 5 times, 3 of them cause I forgot to close the gate, the other two were when posts rotted and he walked over downed field fence.

    We started with a single black/yellow ribbon 30″ high powered by a smallish fence charger for the first five years. For the last five years it has been off. He has about 3 acres to run and gets hay every day. He brays when he sees us but that’s about it. Guess we are lucky to have him.

  20. Jon

    I cherish your experiences. It surely helps many.

  21. mildred

    I am working on planning an electric fence, with multiple horizontal wires, not netting; As i have been able to salvage all the materials! My main need for it now is to keep wild boar from eating corn, squash, berries, grapes and wild mushrooms (things they really want). the electrifiers that I have are all just for boar or cattle and horses…so they only have one setting that gives a big shock. I would also like to use this electric fence in the future as added protection from dogs, and maybe foxes? I don’t know if the same type used for boar would keep out dogs. i would love to run ducks and geese safely on the site. Years ago, some loose dogs came and took my free ranging ducks after 10 months of no problems just letting them loose during the day :(. So now i wait to have enough fencing to know they are reasonably safe. I am not sure if the electric wires themselves would be enough to protect a duck from a hungry dog, and i am also uninformed as to whether the big shock could kill a duck if it touched the wire. I suspect I would need to fence some areas within the electrified perimeter to keep the ducks from getting shocked. the problem is, it is very difficult, expensive and actually sort-of illegal for me to put up any kind of permanent fence, but electrified wires are allowed. I prefer mute ducks (”muscovies”) and geese and i have enough pasture that they would be content within the electric perimeter without needing to be confined themselves. Anyone have a similar experience? advice? ideas?

  22. JJM

    Definitely need fencing to match the livestock and put greatest effort into perimeter fence.
    Growing up in farm/ranch environment my prime experience is cattle, pony and chickens.
    8′ chicken wire worked good around their pen except some chickens needed wings clipped.
    3 strand Barbed wire worked good for interior separated areas.
    Our perimeter was primarily 4′ hog wire topped with barbed wire. Highly dependable unless a tree or limb fell across it.
    Electric – we never used. Neighbors did with risk of shorting out and loss of power even with battery back up.
    95% of all posts were hand cut cedar & 4% live trees, less than 1% metal.

  23. Phoebe

    We are new to all of this. My husband, from India, thinks that hobbling goats is one good way to keep them from jumping and running away. Is there a reason people don’t do that here? (at least if you have some way to protect them from predators?)

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